The Six Changing Lines
The text of the I Ching is a set of oracular statements represented by 64 hexagrams comprised of six lines each, stacked horizontally. Each line is either an unbroken, solid line or a broken line with a gap in the center. The solid line represents yang energy, the masculine principle. The open line represents yin energy, the feminine principle.
Each of the six lines of the I Ching's 64 hexagrams represents an important, pivotal moment within a given situation or set of conditions. The six lines are read from bottom to top and describe a general, chronological progression from beginning to middle to end. If the hexagram in question is #6 Conflict, for example:
•The first line (at the bottom of the hexagram) describes how to prepare for the conflict.
•The second describes how the conflict starts.
•The third, fourth and fifth describe the different stages through which the conflict develops.
•Finally, the last line (at the top of the hexagram) describes the conflict's results and consequences.
Each line of a hexagram is determined by the tossing of three coins. Most hexagrams in a reading include one or more changing lines, determined by coin tosses in which there are either two heads and a tail or two tails and a head, rather than all three coins of the same type. The changing lines in a hexagram function like place markers pointing to moments of transition at the precise time of a reading. In the case of the hexagram #6 Conflict, mentioned above, for example:
•When the first line is a changing line, this indicates that the initial stage of preparation for conflict is in flux.
•When the second line is a changing line, the beginning of the conflict is in flux.
•When the third, fourth and/or fifth lines are changing lines, the developmental stages in the midst of the conflict are in flux.
•When the last line is a changing line, the outcome of the conflict is in flux.
In addition, the first three lines of the hexagram, called the lower trigram, are understood as the inner aspect of the change that is occurring. The upper trigram, the last three lines of the hexagram, is the outer aspect. The change described is the dynamic of the inner, personal aspect relating to the outer, external situation.
With all the above in mind, the following brief description of the changing lines for #6 Conflict in I Ching: The Book of Changes, by Juan Echenique Persico, can be easily grasped:
•Line 2: When faced with a stronger opponent, there is no shame in retreating.
•Line 3: It is no use getting angry. Only serenity and confidence in work well done enable one to get to the top.
•Line 4: To fight with someone who is weak does not contribute to one's fortunes, but weighs on one's conscience. It is necessary to wait.
•Line 5: The presence of a fair judge is required.
•Line 6: Whoever insists on fighting to the bitter end later suffers new attacks and is involved in new conflicts.
The same basic formula can be applied to each of the I Ching's 64 hexagrams in order to understand the natural progression from line to line, as well as the significance of the changing lines in any given hexagram.