The hidden meanings of Yin and Yang

The ubiquitous yin-yang symbol holds its roots in Taoism/Daoism, a Chinese religion and philosophy. The yin, the dark swirl, is associated with shadows, femininity, and the trough of a wave; the yang, the light swirl, represents brightness, passion and growth. John Bellaimey explains why we all contain the spirit of yin and of yang - and how we can achieve a balance of both in our lives.

Yin = everything that takes/ holds/ shrinks,
Yang = every that gives/ flows/ extends

Ying-Yang indicates the dual nature of reality. All creation must have a beginning and an end, rise and fall, birth and rebirth and movement and stop. Much like a light and sound waves can not exist without ups and downs. They all imply a change and a change is what causes an experience, a reality. 
If reality did not change at all, there would be no experience.  All creations are transient, as birth implies death itself. What must have beginning, must have an end the very nature of creation. 

It is the self that experiences the changes, meaning the world indeed does not exist without an observer or a witness. Hence the importance of an observer in studying sub atomic particles (quantum mechanics). 
Now if we connect to Buddha's teaching and ancient philosophies like Advaita, the true self, the nature of you is not dual, it is not relative or subjective. The true self is absolute, timeless, changeless and formless. That self can not be described by words or concepts created by the mind.

It is the changeless background among which changes (yin yang) are perceived. In which creation is perceived for all creation are transient and are constantly changing.  The real self however never was born and never will die. It is an manifested absolute void of emptiness that is open for all. Unity occurs when 2 consciousness see themselves as one, known as love. It is to see yourself in others and in all.  Greed and fear occurs when one views themselves as separate.  

The only right way to meditate is completely empty your mind and be the witness of all perception. Let them come and go, rise and fall, ying yang, but do not cling on to them. Our very clinging and resistance is what causes suffering. This is led by desire, so desire is indeed the root cause of not only creation but suffering.

Symbolism and importance

Yin is the black side with the white dot in it, and yang is the white side with the black dot in it. The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and a valley. Yin (literally the 'shady place' or 'north slope') is the dark area occluded by the mountain's bulk, while yang (literally the 'sunny place' or 'south slope') is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.

Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity, and nighttime.
Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and active; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.
The Yin-Yang symbol, having no "officially standardized" rendition, has been the basis of much artistic variation, most of it "frivolous" (that is, "merely" artistic, with no philosophical/mystical meaning, e.g., tattoos).
Yin and yang also applies to the human body. In traditional Chinese medicine good health is directly related to the balance between yin and yang qualities within oneself. If yin and yang become unbalanced, one of the qualities is considered deficient or has vacuity.


Yin and yang are semantically complex words.
A reliable Chinese-English dictionary gives the following translation equivalents.
Yin  or  Noun  [philosophy] negative/passive/female principle in nature Surname Bound morpheme  the moon shaded orientation covert; concealed; hidden negative north side of a hill south bank of a river reverse side of a stele in intaglio Stative verb  overcast sinister; treacherous
Yang  or  Bound morpheme  [Chinese philosophy] positive/active/male principle in nature the sun in relief open; overt belonging to this world [linguistics] masculine south side of a hill north bank of a river

Yin and yang

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang ( yīnyáng, lit. "dark-bright", "negative-positive") describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang. This duality lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhangtaijiquan (t'ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung), as well as appearing in the pages of the I Ching.

Duality is found in many belief systems, but Yin and Yang are parts of a Oneness that is also equated with the Tao. The term 'dualistic-monism' or dialectical monism has been coined in an attempt to express this fruitful paradox of simultaneous unity/duality. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects (for instance, shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. The yin yang (i.e. taijitu symbol) shows a balance between two opposites with a portion of the opposite element in each section.
In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole. In the ethics of Confucianism on the other hand, most notably in the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu (c. 2nd century BC), a moral dimension is attached to the idea of yin and yang.


Needham discusses Yin and Yang together with Five Elements as part of the School of Naturalists. He says that it would be proper to begin with Yin and Yang before Five Elements because the former: "lay, as it were, at a deeper level in Nature, and were the most ultimate principles of which the ancient Chinese could conceive. But it so happens that we know a good deal more about the historical origin of the Five-Element theory than about that of the Yin and the Yang, and it will therefore be more convenient to deal with it first. He then discusses Zou Yan (鄒衍; 305 – 240 BC) who is most associated with these theories. Although Yin and Yang are not mentioned in any of the surviving documents of Zou Yan, his school was known as the Yin Yang Jia (Yin and Yang School) Needham concludes "There can be very little doubt that the philosophical use of the terms began about the beginning of the -4th century, and that the passages in older texts which mention this use are interpolations made later than that time.


In Daoist philosophy, dark and light, yin and yang, arrive in the Tao Te Ching at chapter 42.  It becomes sensible from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle), and continues moving until quiescence is reached again. For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin and yang thus are always opposite and equal qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: for example, grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle.

It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole (for example, there cannot be the bottom of the foot without the top). A way to illustrate this idea is to postulate the notion of a race with only men or only women; this race would disappear in a single generation. Yet, men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive. The interaction of the two gives birth to things, like manhood. Yin and yang transform each other: like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall. Thus, a seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky—an intrinsically yang movement. Then, when it reaches its full potential height, it will fall. Also, the growth of the top seeks light, while roots grow in darkness.
Certain catchphrases have been used to express yin and yang complementarity:

  • The bigger the front, the bigger the back.
  • Illness is the doorway to health.
  • Tragedy turns to comedy.
  • Disasters turn out to be blessings.
Thanks to Wikpedia: Yin and Yang

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