A Hundred Uglinesses or A Thousand Stupidities: The Upright Cauldron

by Bob Schwartz


Despite a hundred uglinesses or a thousand stupidities, the upright cauldron is naturally beneficent.
Zen Master Hongzhi

A note in Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi says:

As an idiom, “cauldrons,” means simply “uprightness.” The cauldron is a traditional Chinese implement for alchemy and cooking and so is associated with spiritual transformation. Here it is an image for the context of meditation practice and its yogic reliability. Cauldron is the name of hexagram 50 in the ancient Chinese classic Book of Changes, or I Qing: “To change things nothing compares to the cauldron; this is the vessel used to refine the wise, forge sages, cook buddhas, and purify adepts. How could it not be very auspicious and developmental?”

About I Ching Hexagram 50—Ding (Cauldron), Establishing the New—Master Alfred Huang says:

This gua [hexagram] takes the image of a sacrificial vessel to expound upon the importance of honoring and nourishing wise and virtuous persons for the growth of a new country or a new situation. The image of the gua is an inverse form of the preceding one. The preceding one is an act of revolution to abolish the old system or condition. The purpose of revolution is not merely to overthrow the old but, more important, to establish a new situation and a better order. Abolishing the old is difficult; establishing the new is even more so. Both abolishing the old and establishing the new need qualified personnel of extraordinary ability. This gua offers a proper way to reorganize the old order. The key point is to respect wise and virtuous persons and rely on them to establish the new order. On the other hand, eliminating those who are mean and unqualified for their position is equally important.