It was mentioned earlier that the great unification split into Yin and Yang. According to The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, “reversal is the movement of the Tao”. Both in the sphere of nature and human affairs, when the development of anything brings it to one extreme, a reversal to the other extreme takes place. Everything has its own negation. This is the principle of the Yin and Yang interaction in nature and human affairs.
This concept is also associated with the Book of Changes – I Ching, “When the sun has reached its meridian, it declines and when the moon has become full, it wanes.” For,” Reversal is the way of the Tao.” What is true with natural phenomena is also true in human nature. This concept had a profound influence on the behavior of many a Chinese. It is said that they remain cautious even in times of success and prosperity and hopeful even in times of failure and poverty. This doctrine of the Golden Median is based on the concept of harmony between Yin and Yang. Enough is enough, never too much. It is better to have less than to have too much. Having too much and overdoing something may be counter-productive and may run the risk of getting the opposite of what one expects.
Yin and Yang were created due to the observation of instability in nature. Yin and Yang exist for the stability of nature. For example, in the vacuum near an unstable nucleus, a Yin and Yang pair (electron -positron) was created to render stability to the area. A stable atom exists mainly due to the presence of positive protons and negative electrons. Proper balance and harmony can be maintained by an intermingling of the Yin and Yang, the moon and the sun, the Earth and the Heaven, and the transformation of all things will proceed smoothly. There is an interplay and exchange between the male and female and all things will be produced. The Yang gives the beginning and the Yin completes it.
Yin and Yang cannot exist alone in a separate isolation. One cannot exist without the other. Yin separated from Yang or Yang separated from Yin in isolation without any interaction with each other is Alienation. Any philosophy that promotes the positive, the strong, the bright, the visible and the absolute matter and denies the negative, the weak, the dark, the invisible and the spiritual and conducts one’s life in accordance with such a philosophy, lives in a state of alienation. And any philosophy that promotes the latter and denies the former is equally alienated. So, without the combination of the Yin and Yang pair, all other mechanisms of interaction would not be possible. A system that does not tolerate the Yin and Yang contradiction suffers alienation, poverty and meaninglessness. When the alienation is out of proportion, the survival of human society is in danger. Changes are then necessary to remove the elements that cause the alienation in order to restore the dialectic of harmony.
Yin and Yang are two opposite elementary principles from which all phenomena are produced. This concept is associated with the Five Elements in the ancient medicine theory of the first millennium B.C. in China. Reality is a pair of opposites and a group of five elements on rotation succeeding one another each taking its turn. This concept is also present in the writings of philosopher Hsun Tzi. Opposites of Yin and Yang are complementary to each other for the formation of a stable system. Such a contradiction is necessary for the survival of any living system. Alienation on the other hand, is harmful to the survival of the system. With out the complementing aspect there will be no inheritance of genetic replication. The examples of complementing aspects of yin and yang include the paradoxes of the matter and the mind, materialism and idealism, and the biological and the spiritual. Both are parts of the unity as in a ring. There is no moral priority of one over the other, for no point in a ring is before or after any other point. Alienation is removed, but complementary aspects are preserved for the life process.
Intrinsically, Yin does not exist as purely Yin, nor does Yang exist as purely Yang. There is Yin in the Yang, and Yang in the Yin. Yin and Yang do not only complement each other, they are also inside each other. Yin influences Yang not only from without but also from within. And Yang influences Yin in the same manner. This is interpenetration, another aspect of the Yin and Yang relationship. In other words there is action in inactions, strength in weakness, unity in diversity, victory in failure and life in sacrifice. In human society there is no such thing as pure socialism or pure private enterprise. There will always be private enterprise in socialism and socialism in private enterprise – society. The two will penetrate each other for stability and survival.
Interpenetration allows the presence of Yin in the interior of Yang and Yang inside Yin. The Yin and the Yang in the interior of each half can expand or contract internally. Motion and development are associated with such activity. The two halves can transform into each other. So there are both external and internal contradictions and for that matter both external and internal interactions. The result of such transformation is the production of pluralism. Mutual production and mutual overcoming as the seasons rotate in cycles of rising and falling, which unite man and nature. All things are related. Reality is also a process of mutual transformation. But the essence of reality is always the same, the will to survive. Transformation between Yin and Yang ensures the success of the survival and meaningful life in society.
Harmony is not static. It is a result of dynamic operation. Harmony between Yin and Yang reinforced the Doctrine of the Golden Median. In this respect, Chinese philosophy is concerned more with relationship than with substance. The universe is a well-ordered state of existence but it is also in a state of constant change and readjustment. Things are forever interfused and intermingled. The universe is a realm of perpetual activity. The activity takes the form of cycles of Yin and Yang. It is for a dynamic homeostasis for the survival of a system. Harmony does not stand still. It has a progressive direction leading to the development of morality, the stability of the society and the maturation of a civilization.
Yin Yang Doctrine within Taoism
The Yin and Yang concept is very simple. Yet it is quite difficult to understand it in a deep manner. The concept is derived from the experiences gained by practitioners engaged in the pursuit of Union with Tao. The Yin and Yang interactions that occur in our daily life lie within the logic of our common sense. The successful practice of Yin and Yang in life leads to a great state of harmony. This is the basis of good health and as such is maintained by the Qi, which is both physical and moral. The concept of Yin and Yang is thus the cornerstone of dialectics in Chinese philosophy.
The movement of Tao gives rise to Qi. The spontaneity of Qi gives rise to the interactions of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are the opposite expressions of the same reality. Mass and energy are the opposite expressions of the same Qi. Qi is the mass and Qi is the energy, yet Qi is also the transforming force between mass and energy. Energy is represented by Yang and mass by Yin. Yin and Yang are different and opposite; they undergo movement and transformation in the Infinite Emptiness. The union of Yin and Yang becomes harmony. This union of harmony is possible because they are opposite. It is because they are opposite that interactions take place. This is the source of interactions. The Yin and Yang concept is applied to all opposites in the universe, to substance and to motion. For motion and stillness also are intrinsic with Yin and Yang.
Thus the Infinite Emptiness is the field; Qi resting is the mass – Yin; Qi in motion is the energy, Yang; and the Qi both resting and in motion is the transforming force.
According to Lao Tzu, all things carry Yin and Yang, through the impact of the Qi, harmony is accomplished.
The Dialectics of the Qi
The Canon of Internal Medicine assigned different domains and substances to Yin and Yang. “Heaven is Yang, the Earth Yin, the Sun is Yang, the Moon Yin,” “Yin is internal to preserve Yang, Yang is external to utilize Yin.” “Water is Yin, fire is Yang.” The structural substance of life is Yin and the functional activity is Yang. “Yin and Yang are the Tao of Heaven and Earth, the principles of all things, the parents of all transformations, the origin of life and death. The interactions of Yin and Yang include the dialectic of not only the unification of opposites but also the complimenting aspect of opposites.
Yin and yang may oppose each other but also attract each other. In Chapter 46 of Canon of Internal Medicine, it is recorded that “Where there is strength, there is also weakness. Too strong is conducive to too much anger, and too weak is liable to be hurt. ” “There is Yin inside Yang, and Yang inside Yin.” The interpenetration and contradictions of Yin and Yang creates new substances and conceptual significance. There is no limit to the evolution of the Yin and Yang opposites, generating new phenomena and quality ad infinitum.
The origin of things will evolve in quantitative changes, while the limit of things will evolve in qualitative changes. From the beginning to the end of life, there will be changes and if the interactions get out of control, disorders and diseases will ensue. All the changes should lead to homeostatic harmony to ensure health.
To maintain homeostatic balance is not only a biological necessity but also a philosophical issue. The human body possesses the ability to maintain and regulate the structure and function of life unto harmony. The Five Element System is a demonstration of the Five Activating Forces operating not in a mechanical way but with mutual interactions and a feedback mechanism. It is not just a reaction of cause and effect, but with interactions resulting from the inter-relatedness of all the Five Substances in nature or the Five Activating Forces of all the internal organs and glands of the body. Cause and effect is direct, but interrelatedness also considers the indirect interactions.
Some people think that since Yin and Yang are opposites, therefore they must be hostile to each other and fight to eliminate each other. This is a philosophical blunder. If Yin and Yang fight then nature will not be in harmony and there will be chaos everywhere.
The human body does fight diseases, but the objective is to regain the Yin and Yang balance and health. Diseases and excesses are alienation and as such must be removed to restore a balance of Yin and Yang in the living system.
“Reversal is the movement of Tao.” This is the secret of life and the law of nature.
When things have gone too far to the extreme, there will be a movement of reversal. This is how the body develops defense mechanism and the physical world develops changes in order to return to the state of harmony.
The entire mechanism of the reversal is simply via the operation of Yin and Yang through the Five Element system.