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I ching

Meng (Youthful Folly)

I Ching Hexagram 4
Meng (Youthful Folly)

Action: Try Again

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 24 Return: Go Back

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 49 Molting: Transform

To know success, you must make peace with the idea of failing.

No man is free who is not a master of himself. – Epictetus

Reading at a Glance: The greatest thing Meng teaches is how knowing something with inner certainty means nothing needs to be defended. When we are ignorant we use many words to defend our insecurity or vague ideas. When we are enlightened, we need no words or confirmation of our truth. Teachers come into our lives in many forms. Be open to how this may be happening. The time calls for going back and trying again. Criticism can hurt our feelings, but if we desire to be the best we can be then we need to be open to input. A teacher may say: “no, this isn’t the right way – try again.” However, when life does this to you by blocking your way, it is often viewed as a message to give up. Failing is no reason not to try again. Meng cultivates a state of mind that not only allows you to stand at the threshold of awareness without judgment, it also brings the joy of discovery that ensures your success. Life keeps us in a state of not knowing precisely to keep us growing. Much of the suffering we face has the purpose of leading us back to wonder. One who sees failure as a stepping stone for success always succeeds. The turning point during failure leads you to retreat, regroup and try again. The underlying cause for Meng is that a period of Molting or Revolution has led to a state of Innocence where you can be led. It is time to become a student again.

baby seedling


like the shavings

of a sculpture -

the substance revealed

in silence.

“Youthful Folly means confusion and subsequent enlightenment.” Meng asks you to recognize how failure is a prerequisite for your success. Do not hide your weakness. It can only be transformed into strength by exercising it. The journey is a process of discovery; the idea of a destination can be a trap, and the fear of failure can keep you from being the best you can be.

Sometimes Youthful Folly can be a message that you already know or have the answer.

Like a student approaching a new course of study, know that trial and error will hone your expertise. This enlightenment brings forward a sense of stillness and power. Take everything in stride, but admit your mistakes so you can learn from them.

The master said: "In search of stillness, you travel a journey of a thousand miles.” The actual journey has the sublime effect of Returning you to your center and strengthening your trust in the way.

The Abysmal Water wells up at the foot of the Mountain, and portrays the inexperience of a youth who seeks a wider awareness. Folly describes the false starts that come from a lack of experience, but this trial and error is necessary to season you. If you want to know success, then you must make peace with the idea of failing.

In Tao’s pursuit of excellence “carving and polishing means removing the layers. Cutting and grinding is the cultivation of the self.” Meng is the symbol of something growing beneath a cover. It portrays the illusion of how you believe that you must conquer others to develop power. You will find that “you must only conquer yourself.”

“Without looking out the window, you will discover the natural Way.” Without looking out the window or following others, you discover a power within that grows beneath cover. You need not look to anything else to find your way.

The master said: “One of little words has inner value.” In the process of learning, you will find that words are a measure of your inner certainty. To stand in silent knowing is real power.

When you feel the need to defend yourself, you are merely reassuring your own misgivings. At peace with who you are, energy can mount without the use of words. “This is the inner strength that emerges from stillness.”

Meng can be a message that you are searching for something 'out there' to satisfy what can only be found 'in here.' You have attached yourself to an outcome that is blocking your ability to hear the message. Let go. Time is perfectly spaced to hear the echo of sincerity.


Foolish success = the fool receives answers but cannot hear. Don’t continually ask the same question without understanding the message. It is as if you are being told to chew on the last answer before asking it again. You may need to give something time in order for the answer to become clear. Maybe you are operating on assumptions and are not open to hearing the answer. Perhaps the question needs to be tweaked a little before an answer is given. Like a student being given an answer in a koan, you may want an answer and instead, get only a riddle. But the riddle will disassemble your paradigm in a way that opens you to see beyond your question. One is only called a fool because of their beliefs and beliefs can change. With no changing lines perseverance in a changed approach to your questioning is in order.

Line 1:

A fool needs discipline not fetters = inspire, don’t humiliate. Changes to (41) Decrease. The idea of removing excess comes into play in this line. Whether you are learning or leading, subordinating your will to the cause is necessary. If you are facing an obstacle to your desire, how can the obstacle be transformed into opportunity through subordination? If you are leading others, follow behind and inspire their forward movement. Decrease force and open to possibilities.

Line 2:

Bear fools in kindness = perspective comes from the unexpected. Changes to (23) Split Apart. In Taoism it is said that to overcome others we use power, but to overcome ourselves we are strong. While it may seem that you are powerless in this situation, you might benefit by the saying: “you get more bees with honey.” A non threatening and lighthearted attitude works wonders. Just look how children achieve their desires through an innocent and playful attitude that adults simply cannot refuse. There is a way to succeed that a child already knows. You may need to spend time with the idea of not knowing or not having an answer in order to take off the glasses of preconceptions to truly recognize that anything is possible in this situation.

Line 3:

Hold to strength = one becomes weak only by mimicking the strong. Changes to (18) Decay. In this situation you may be relying on dogma or other’s ideas and opinions without exercising your unique perspective. As a leader, it may be time to reinvigorate the root of your teaching. As a student, you cannot just mimic the teacher but own the teaching by your actions. Integrity is called for rather than mimicry or copying. In a relationship you might be seeing the partner as your ideal and not necessarily as they really are. Avoid validating your weakness by giving your power to another.

Line 4:

Confined by ignorance = entangled folly. Changes to (64) Before Completion. While you are close to your goal, you may be feeling rejection, failure or abandonment as Tao throws you back upon yourself to discover your folly. There is a final step to be taken. Silence your misgivings and return to the struggle. Don’t entangle yourself in fantasy and arrogance, but open your mind to the possibility that you are not getting the message, or that your conclusions are not accurate.

Line 5:

Youthful inexperience good fortune = brings opportunity. Changes to (59) Dispersion. Nature devises clever ways of sustaining life via the dispersing activities of different species. Bees pollinate flowers and seeds are carried about by animal fur. A childlike innocence and openness to innovation allows you to be led to new opportunity. You succeed because you are open to how life teaches and guides you.

Line 6:

Attacking ignorance = insults build enemies. Changes to (7) Army. This line suggest how to apply discipline similar to how boot camp breaks down weakness to develop strength. The insult is superficial and serves to make you stronger. However, too much discipline or criticism can break the spirit. To develop ignorance into wisdom, one inspires greatness in others. Discipline works because the ‘disciple’ and teacher relationship means you can only lead if others respectfully follow. In this situation you are warned to keep respect for others above discipline and rehabilitation over punishment.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 4 unchanging Hexagram 4.1 Hexagram 4.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 4.2 Hexagram 4.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 4.3 Hexagram 4.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 4.4 Hexagram 4.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 4.5 Hexagram 4.5.6 Hexagram 4.6