What is Yin & Yang

By George Mera

Sunset on BeachAccording to Eastern tradition, at the beginning of time there was a complete emptiness, silence or Wuchi.  In this void, two forces emerged; one being positive, called Yang, and the corresponding negative force, called Yin.  The atom, electricity and computers are based on this binary system, positive/negative, one or zero.  When these two forces fused, they produced a tremendous expanding force, like a big bang, and subsequently the whole universe came into being.

Yin and Yang, regenerating themselves ad infinitum; these original forces are still moving, and in their path, they have been creating planets, stars, life and this reality that is our existence.  A primary characteristic of these two forces is to always be equal or balanced.  If any lack of equilibrium manifests itself then the forces diminish, disappear and transform.  Yin and Yang are omnipresent in anything you lay your eyes on, what your senses grasp and what you mind tells you.  When Yin is manifested, Yang will follow, high follows the low, white the black, male, female.  There is an expected, concerted, and vital antagonism that is necessary for the balance to be achieved.

This natural and continuing flowing, expansion and assemblage of things from the origin, is called Tao, the way, the truth, the path (it is not called the goal).  According to Taoism, in the beginning this antagonism, this attraction and repulsion, created the second dimension, the space dimension.  The two dimensions fill this void with infinite galaxies and celestial objects.  In an alternating dance of frenetic activity and rest, so the manifested world began.

Taoists always ask, are you swimming with the current or against it? Are you natural and in balance?  Are you moving with the Tao? They recommend you to follow the entire universe and you will experience life from a deeper understanding of the essence of things.  If you swim with the current you acquire the force of it; you can change directions and avoid obstacles, if you are swimming against it, you exhaust yourself in an impossible task.  Many people believe they are swimming with the current of life and faster than other people.  They have accumulated more things and their sense of self-importance has been fulfilled.  Many people have lost their lives, family and health in the pursuit of a good life, believing that they were swimming with the current of events and things that we value in life.  But at the end of our lives, seeing their past from another perspective, they realize that they were really moving away from the Tao. 

This Yin and Yang arrangement is the essence of the universe and is lying underneath every event in the cosmos; it is the force propelling all things in life, from the atom, electricity, to our bodies.

We respect the dark side of the Yin and Yang symbol; it contributes to who you are, like the manure contributes to the flower’s fragrance. Confucianism describes a human being with all the goodness, virtues and benevolence with a little bit of misbehavior on top.  This needs to be accepted otherwise we will be constantly judging ourselves in an internal conflict.
If you accept yourself as you are with all the goodness and mischievous behavior, you can accept everybody else.  We finally can make peace with ourselves and with the world; otherwise we turn into judges and moralists.  We cannot accept that what we hate the most in other people is inside our own minds and we are constantly trying to suppress this feeling; Chinese people say it should be honor among thieves.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to improve yourself or act in life as a responsible individual.  It means that suppression of emotions is not the solution to resolve the truth of our lives.  Suppression is like pruning a tree; the more we cut the branches the stronger the trunk becomes.

If we want to suppress anger and diligently work on pruning the emotion, we might succeed in doing that, but in the process we lost spontaneity.  We might become afraid of the shadow of anger.  Many religions try to suppress the emotions, because they believe we cannot trust ourselves, that we might act on negative emotions.

That dark side is believed to possess all the dreadful creatures in life.  Many people advise against the exploration of the subconscious mind.  They say it is dangerous and we can’t trust ourselves.  But if you don’t trust yourself who are you going to trust?  In the exploration of this subconscious mind you might find yourself at the end of the road confronted with a mirror and there you will see God reflected.

It is dualistic to detest the world and to rejoice in liberation.   Liberation can be found where there is bondage, but where there is ultimately no bondage where is there need for liberation?

- Vimalakirti Sutra




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