17. Following (suí)
Knowing the way, go on, but spend energy carefully.
Inital text of I Ching
Following has supreme success. Perseverance furthers. No blame.
Thunder in the middle of the lake:
The image of Following. Thus the superior man at nightfall goes indoors for rest and recuperation.
- The standard is changing. Perseverance brings good fortune. To go out of the door in company produces deeds.
- If one clings to the little boy, one loses the strong man.
- If one clings to the strong man, one loses the little boy. Through following one finds what one seeks. It furthers one to remain persevering.
- Following creates success. Perseverance brings misfortune. To go one's way with sincerity brings clarity. How could there be blame in this?
- Sincere in the good. Good fortune.
- He meets with firm allegiance and is still further bound. The king introduces him to the Western Mountain.
Having good things, learn to use them properly. Restrain yourself, follow a wise man, experience the joy of learning, trust the inner voice - then you will find what you want. Dark follows light, low - high seeking to transform – the same is in your soul. Strive to maintain a balance in everything: alternate work and rest, do not take on too much, and do not give unrealistic promises. Obey objective circumstances, and live according to reality.
The trigram Tui, the Joyous, whose attribute is gladness, is above; Chên, the
Arousing, which has the attribute of movement, is below. Joy in movement
induces following. The Joyous is the youngest daughter, while the Arousing
is the eldest son. An older man defers to a young girl and shows her
consideration. By this he moves her to follow him.
In order to obtain a following one must first know how to adapt oneself. If a
man would rule he must first learn to serve, for only in this way does he
secure from those below him the joyous assent that is necessary if they are to
follow him. If he has to obtain a following by force or cunning, by conspiracy
or by creating faction, he invariably arouses resistance, which obstructs
willing adherence. But even joyous movement can lead to evil
consequences, hence the added stipulation, "Perseverance furthers" --that is,
consistency in doing right-- together with "No blame." Just as we should not
ask others to follow us unless this condition is fulfilled, so it is only under
this condition that we can in turn follow others without coming to harm.
The thought of obtaining a following through adaptation to the demands of
the time is a great and significant idea; this is why the appended judgment is
In the autumn electricity withdraws into the earth again and rests. Here it is
the thunder in the middle of the lake that serves as the image--thunder in its
winter rest, not thunder in motion. The idea of following in the sense of
adaptation to the demands of the time grows out of this image. Thunder in
the middle of the lake indicates times of darkness and rest. Similarly, a
superior man, after being tirelessly active all day, allows himself rest and
recuperation at night. No situation can become favorable until one is able to
adapt to it and does not wear himself out with mistaken resistance.
There are exceptional conditions in which the relation between leader and
followers changes. It is implicit in the idea of following and adaptation that if
one wants to lead others, one must remain accessible and responsive to the
views of those under him. At the same time, however, he must have firm
principles, so that he does not vacillate where there is only a question of
current opinion. Once we are ready to listen to the opinions of others, we
must not associate exclusively with people who share our views or with
members of our own party; instead, we must go out and mingle freely with
all sorts of people, friends or foes. That is the only way to achieve something.
In friendships and close relationships an individual must make a careful
choice. He surrounds himself either with good or with bad company; he
cannot have both at once. If he throws himself away on unworthy friends he
loses connection with people of intellectual power who could further him in
When the right connection with distinguished people has been found, a
certain loss naturally ensues. A man must part company with the inferior
and superficial. But in his heart he will feel satisfied, because he seeks and
needs for the development of his personality. The important thing is to
remain firm. He must know what he wants and not be led astray by
It often happens, when a man exerts a certain amount of influence, that he
obtains a following by condescension toward inferiors. But the people who
attach themselves to him are not honest in their intentions. They seek
personal advantage and try to make themselves indispensable through
flattery and subservience. If one becomes accustomed to such satellites and
cannot do without them, it brings misfortune. Only when a man is
completely free from his ego, and intent, by conviction, upon what is right
and essential, does he acquire the clarity that enables him to see through such
people, and become free of blame.
Every man must have something he follows--something that serves him as a
lodestar. He who follows with conviction the beautiful and the good may feel
himself strengthened by this saying.
This refers to a man, an exalted sage, who has already put the turmoil of the
world behind him. But a follower appears who understands him and is not
to be put off. So the sage comes back into the world and aids the other in his
work. Thus there develops an eternal tie between the two.
The allegory is chosen from the annals of the Chou dynasty. The rulers of
this dynasty honored men who had served them well by awarding them a
place in the royal family's temple of ancestors on the Western Mountain. In
this way they were regarded as sharing in the destiny of the ruling family.
Barbara Hejslip interpretation
Now not time to involve in itself supporters; you need to become stronger more likely on the positions. And if suddenly even your purposes will change be not receded from the principles. Do not pursue at once loud success and a large victory: be content while small, and it and will cause big. It is not necessary to go against the stream, and all will come in the order. It is very probable, that your desire will be executed, but be ready to big vital changes.
Richard Wilhelm's commentary