When I decided, to have a Blog, I thought about what my first Blog post should be about. Then I thought maybe starting with Yin Yang; that I also named my recent collection, might be a good idea. There are many things to talk about around this subject, however, I am going to try my best to write something brief and simple to explain my understanding through my study .
I have been reading a lot on eastern philosophies for the past many years. "Tao the Ching" by Lao Tzu, the founder of philosophical Taoism, is one of my favorite books among eastern philosophies.There are many translations of this book and I havent able to read all of them yet and each of the ones that I read had slightly different feeling,some of them translates without the interpretations,some completely avoids gender specific pronouns because they state that the original Chinese doesn’t have the pronouns,some of them uses both he and she in the text and some of the translations includes interpretations of the translator so if you are interested to check this philosophy deeper,its better to read different translations of the text. And i think its very important for us,for the readers, to be open metaphorical meanings as well as and be open to multiple meaning of the words because they may subject to variety of interpretations. When you get a feeling of the Tao philosophy and any other Ancient Philosophies , I think it gets easier to understand which of the translations might be the closer to the original text though.
The Yijing, (The Book of Changes, or I Ching) a classical Chinese philosophy, is considered to be the root of Tao Philosophy. It is based on the ancient idea of Yin Yang, which also influenced Confucianism, Buddhism and Zen.
Yin Yang is perhaps the most known and documented concept used within Taoism. It is generally considered as, especially in the west understanding,symbolic of all polarities of mind, which produce our experience of the world. We humans live in a world of yes and no, light and dark, cold and hot,beautiful and ugly, good and bad and perceive things in our experiences with duality however this is misunderstanding of the Yin Yang philosphy. Yin Yang is actually stands for two halves of a whole .It is a balancing act.They work together to create the life. Like Yin considered as the moon,Yang is the sun. Yang radiates the light,Yin reflects the sun light. Yin is the feminine spirit in nature like soil,shadow.Yang is a male spirit in nature like sun,light,force. Yang is external,Yin is internal. Yin Yang also symbolizing that everything has little bit of its opposite within self, nothing is truly absolute. And the appearance of the motion of Yin Yang symbol shows that everything is always changing,transforming. Life is in always constant motion.
Tao Te Ching starts with;
The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal
Tao The name that can be named
is not the eternal name
Eckhart Tolle explains this 1st chapter as;
"The truth is not in the words, the words only point to the truth.And the truth only to be found within you, beyond the realm of mind, of thinking, of concepts" and he continues “Although Dao (Tao) can be translated as ‘the way,’ you just can’t translate Dao. Even if you translate it, it’s meaningless. Even if you’re a Chinese person, you’re not at a great advantage, you still don’t know what Dao is.The Dao is something that cannot be named. That is not a thing.The way how to live, the way to living in alignment with the one power that underlies the universe. Living in alignment with the Ultimate, which sometimes is called God. But the moment you call it God, it’s not it. You’ve made it into something. It’s not some thing. It is something that flows through the entire universe and at the same time, it is beyond it.That is the Dao.That is something you can discover within yourself.You can live in the way that connects you with the inner source of all life" 1
Tao (also called Dao) Philosophy is based on the close observations and studies of nature. The fundamental point of Taoism is that man is an integrated part of the cosmos. 2 Believes that the body is the cosmos in miniature.The universe is an organism and man is a microcosm of the universe.Just the earth contains air,sea,land,the body has qi,fluids and blood.And just the earth is governed by seasons,so the body is affected by internal weather. 3
All living entities, although we experience ourselves as separate, are regarded as the same single awareness expressing itself through different forms. Like water cycles, the water goes through different phases. There is continuous movement of water above and below the surface of the Earth and the transitions from one state to another.2 The yin-yang doctrine is based on the concept that there are continuous transformations within the Tao.This also considered as impermanence of forms, all forms are short lived, all forms transforms into something else. So believes all living beings are temporary expressions of the one Tao.
In Tao (Dao) Philosophy,”Wu ji" is a state of emptiness or simply a single point in space.There is no discrimination and there are no polarities on this state. 4
Wu Ji represented by an empty circle. It refers to a staten prior to the differentiation into Yin and Yang and the ten-thousand-things .."Wu" means no, nothing or emptiness. "Ji" means end, limitation,polar or polarity. So, "Wu Ji" means "no limit" or no polarity.This is the original state of everything 2
Jonathan Star's translation of chapter 28 of the Tao Te Ching , Lao-Tzu expreseses Wuji as;
Hold your male side with your female side
Hold your bright side with your dull side
Hold your high side with your low side
Then you will be able to hold the whole world
When the opposing forces unite within
there comes a power abundant in its giving
and unerring in its effect
Flowing through everything
It returns one to the First Breath
It returns one to No Limits
It returns one to the Uncarved Block
When the block is divided
it becomes something useful
and leaders can rule with just a few pieces
But the Sage holds the Block complete
Holding all things within himself
The principles of Tai ji are represented by the Yin and Yang circle.Yang contains the seeds of yin and yin contains the seeds of yang.The Wu ji gives birth to Tai ji, by contracting and expanding energies which manifest as polarities.
The author of Tao Te Ching ,Lao-Tzu in the chapter 42, explains the cosmogony of Dao as;
Dao gives birth to One
One gives birth to Two
Two give birth to Three
Three give birth to ten-thousand things
The ten-thousand things carry Yin and embrace Yang.They mix these energies to enact harmony
The diagram above illustrates Wu Ji to Tai Ji to the eight Triagrams
Polarity is traditionally symbolized in the Yijing (I Ching or Book of Changes) as a solid line Yang and a broken line Yin
From two each of these symbols , four symbols were created;
Tai Yang(Supreme Yang) Shao Yin(Lesser Yin)
Shao Yang (Supreme Yang) Tai Yin (Lesser Yin)
From Combining these symbols , 8 Triagram created
Wu Ji to Tai Ji to the Eight Triagrams and Ultimately the Thousand things.
Wu Ji to Tai Ji to the Eight Triagrams and Ultimately the Thousand things. Traditionally, ten thousand was thought of as such an unimaginably big number that it became the equivalent of infinity. The concept includes everything you can point to or even name 5
Dao gives birth to One (Wuji)
nothingness/infinity, a great field of cosmic energy, which Laozi refers to here as “One” or “unity”
One (Wuji) gives birth to Two (Taiji)
Tai ji literally translates as “supreme extremity”, but it means “unified dynamic polarity”
Two (Taiji or Yin-Yang) give birth to Three (Three are Jing , Qi, and Shen)
The "Three Treasures" are the essential energies sustaining human life:
Jing ~ Essence
Qi ~ Vitality (basic energy)
Shen ~ Spirit
Three (Jing,Qi and Shen) give birth to ten-thousand things 6
Stephen Mitchell's interpretation of Chapter 51 of the Tao Te Ching talks of the relationship between Tao and the Ten thousand things;
Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being spontaneously honors the Tao.
The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing, acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao is in the very nature of things
Wu Wei literally means “non-doing” as its translated into English. It is an important concept of Taoism.Generally this understood as laziness or non action. But actually it means do without doing,without control. It is the action in harmony with Tao. It is a natural,spontaneous, unselfconscious state of mind action. It is an effortless effort. Sun,rivers,trees or anything that you can think of in this universe does everything naturally or like all our organs,our cells do their work naturally without doing it. Water is the perfect symbol of Tao,and actually Tao Philosophy uses water example a lot because water is soft and flowing, but it also is powerful and sustains life. It clothes, nourishes all beings, but does not rule over them. That is the state of Wu Wei that connects us to Tao and clearly its a state that beyond human thinking.
The theory of Yin Yang is fundamental to the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine in terms of understanding,diagnosing and treating health issues. The concept of harmony is central to Chinese medicine.Treatment seeks to balance Yin Yang in each person .Believes that no one is completely Yin or Yang. As an example; Yin is matter, like blood, fluids in the body. Yang is the action potential, qi, like the heat in the body.We have yin emotions like fear of change, laziness and Yang emotions like anger and irritation.It believes when they are in balance,the body is healthy,emotionally and physically. Chinese Medicine balances these qualities in the body when they are deficient. The typical Chinese medicine therapies include acupuncture, herbal medicine and Qigong exercises. 7
The meditational forms,which require stillness called Nei dan. It is the Taoist practice of Inner Alchemy. We can translate as inner works.The traditional Nei dan practice involve standing motionless,sitting or lying; breathing, concentration, and visualization techniques: sitting and forgetting,focusing and observing, concentrating on one,expelling the old breath and drawing the new,still at the active mind and reflecting.It is believed that these practices expands the awareness , awakens one's true nature and helps develop human potential. 5-8 All these practices are for cultivating internal peace so as to cultivate external peace.
Chapter 10 (Stephen Mithcell's translation) Tao Te Ching Lao-Tzu expresses how to live to be in touch with Tao;
Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child's?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.
Here is another translation of Chapter 10 by Robert G. Henricks ;
In nourishing the soul and embracing the One
can you do it without letting them leave?
In concentrating your breath and making it soft
can you make it like that of a child?
In cultivating and cleaning your profound mirror
can you do it so that it has no blemish?
In loving the people and giving life to the state
can you do it without using knowledge?
In opening and closing the gates of Heaven
can you play the part of the female?
In understanding all within the four reaches
can you do it without using knowledge?
Give birth to them and nourish them.
Give birth to them but don't try to own them;
Help them to grow but don't rule them.
This is called Profound Virtue.
We usually do things with expectations. We expect that life will give us back if we do certain things. We expect that people love us back in a certain way if we love them.The way of the Tao is living without expectations. Can you sit with your thoughts and feelings and allow them to come and go? Can you devote yourself to a goal without any personal agenda? Can you care for another person without expectations? Can you practice all these without expectation? Can you observe your mind instead of being lost in it?
Like many other Ancient philosophies one of the important Tao principle is "Oneness" ,however we, the human beings, feels apart from other life forms, As Einstein also described this as "Our seperation from each other is an optical illusion of consciousness" and Tao Philosophy believes that (as many other ancient philosophy) when we lack of the connection with that Oneness, with the Tao, the experience of humanity becomes out of harmony with the natural flow and not able to achieve our potential. On the contrary when we live in tune with the Tao leads us to a true balance and life grows,flourish and develop.
Chapter 39 of Tao Te Ching Lao-Tzu describes this as;
In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creature flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct.
I would like end my blog with Eckhart Tolle and one of Jiddu Krishnamurti's quote, Eckhart Tolle expresses his thoughts on Chapter 39 and explains how the collective conciousness of humanity effects when we are out of touch with Tao;
"When humans collectively live out of touch with the greater conciousness,whatever they manifest externally reflects that state of disconnectedness and then planet around them suffers. Its simply reflection of the state of conciousness. This eternal principle Lao Tzu saw 2500 years ago. It also applies the solution of what is happening to the planet, can not be found exclusively on the external level. Ofcourse we need to change the things in the external level but unless the conciousness at our habitual state changes. Even if we move one evil out from here or there, it will replace by other thing that has the same harmful influence on nature and planet. So the fundemental is the shift in conciosuness in human, in humanity. But not others to change. Humanity is you.The shift of conciosuness needs to happen in you, then the planet will be saved.
and here is one of Jiddu Krishnamurti's quote on how important for humanity a new way of thinking become necessary, it was also at the beginning of Zeitgeist documentary ;
"Man is still as he was, is still brutal, violent, aggressive, acquisitive, competitive, and he has built a society along these lines. The crisis is the crisis in consciousness, a crisis that cannot anymore accept the old norms, the old patterns, and continuing what the world is now, with all the misery, conflict, destructive brutality, aggression and so on. We were saying how very important it is to bring about in the human mind the radical revolution. What we’re trying to do in all these discussions and talks is to see if we cannot radically bring about the transformation of the mind, not accept things as they are ,nor revolt against them. Revolt doesn't answer a thing,but understand it, examine it, give your heart and your mind with a thinking out a way of living differently. But, it depends on you not somebody else, because in this there is no teacher, no pupil. There’s no leader. There’s no guru. There’s no master, no savior. You are the teacher the pupil, the leader, the guru of everything and to understand is to transform."
Tao Te Ching Translation by Stephen Mitchell
Tao Te Ching Translation by Robert G. Henricks
Tao Te Ching Translation by Jonathan Star
Vital Breath of the Dao: Chinese Shamanic Tiger Qigong - Laohu Gong
1-Eckhart Tolle Tao Te Ching- 1-7 youtube.com/watch?v=zfNiZbk0m0c
3- Traditional Chinese Medicine by Sheila McNamara and Prof. Song Xuan KE
6- Dao De Jing by Gu Shen Yu,Old Oak Taiji School
7-Traditional Chinese Medicine by Sheila McNamara and Prof. Song Xuan KE