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What does the yin/yang represent?

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What does the yin/yang represent?

Postby dealing with it on Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:22 pm

This came up in the "Are People Born Evil?" thread, and I think it deserves its own discussion: Rulke presented the idea that the yin/yang expresses the interdependence of good and evil.

I'm not entirely sure if that's a complete explanation.

Similar to the Star of David for Judaism and the crescent moon for Islam, the yin and the yang is "the symbol" of the Taoist religion/philosophy. Uniquely, however, I think it's such a ubiquitous symbol that it's possible to talk about it even without in-depth knowledge of Taoism.

The word "Tao" used to be translated in the West as "God", but it's no longer considered the best substitution. I've heard it translated as "Nature", "the Way", "the Path", "Reality", or simply left as "Tao" (for various reasons). I don't think it would be blunderously wrong for me to say that the yin/yang is a symbol that represents our perception of Tao. That is to say, we fracture Tao into parts, often forgetting the deeper unity of reality.

Is this a fair assessment, or am I missing the actual picture?
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Re: What does the yin/yang represent?

Postby qbsuperstar03 on Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:36 pm

I personally thought that the yin and yang are always meant to be taken together to represent the twin ideals of interdependence and balance. Note how the yin has a seed of yang and the yang has a seed of yin, emphasizing Taoism's viewpoint that the highest state of awareness comes from being at balance with one's surroundings.

For those that are wondering, the black part is the yin and has been interpreted as the power of earth, water, the feminine power, and other things (the concept of "Mother Earth" has many parallels); the white is the yang, its opposite in every way, being fire, air, heavenly power, and the male power (which is not the same as the penis, for the cynically inclined).
The war has ended for now and peace has been restored. But those who sacrificed themselves for the victory will never return. Exhausted, X gazes at the destruction he helped cause and wonders why he chose to fight. Was there another way?

Standing on the cliff, the answers seem to escape him. He only knows that he'll fight the Mavericks again before he finds his answer.

How long will he keep on fighting? How long will his pain last? Maybe only the X-Buster on his hand knows for sure...
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I agree with qbopenstar03. the yin yang does mean balance, though to add something in, isn't it like the balance of positive and negative energy. i mean, in my opinion the yin yang is shaped like the world, and we need positive and negative energy to balance the world. too much positive and the world agrees on too many things. too much negative and we would be in chaos. well, i just thought of this when I started typing but yeah.
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Re: What does the yin/yang represent?

Postby Mr_Doomed on Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:54 pm

I was going to say the exact same things as qbopenstar03, but he beat me to it, but I'll have to disagree with Justice. I think that 'positive' and 'negative' are just used as examples of the concept of yin and yang. They aren't the only examples of it however. It was probably focused on so much because it is a place where philosophers can have the most discussion on the concept just because philosophers tend to want to look at things that don't make sense to a human mind and the concept of having both positive and negative aspects in one's life balanced isn't something that would entirely make sense (especially when the idea of yin and yang first came to be).
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qbsuperstar,
I personally thought that the yin and yang are always meant to be taken together to represent the twin ideals of interdependence and balance. Note how the yin has a seed of yang and the yang has a seed of yin, emphasizing Taoism's viewpoint that the highest state of awareness comes from being at balance with one's surroundings.
So the symbol is a guardian over an important emotional state?


Justice Guardian,
i mean, in my opinion the yin yang is shaped like the world, and we need positive and negative energy to balance the world. too much positive and the world agrees on too many things. too much negative and we would be in chaos.
Is it a political statement, about how we should run the world?


Mr_Doomed,
I was going to say the exact same things as qbopenstar03, but he beat me to it, but I'll have to disagree with Justice. I think that 'positive' and 'negative' are just used as examples of the concept of yin and yang. They aren't the only examples of it however.
qb brings up many things, from the feminine and the masculine, to the earth element and the air element, to the ideals of interdependence and balance. The question I have is: are all the things he brought up examples, or does a pair of them represent exactly what the yin/yang means?
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Re: What does the yin/yang represent?

Postby Eyeris on Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:51 pm

The Taoist worldview is a bit complex... I do not think I can adequately surmise it, but I will address specific points being brought up that I feel are important.

The symbol is not a static symbol (this is how energy/dualities are divided all the time) it represents the way energy moves. This symbol and cosmology was designed by observing nature. I believe an understanding of Taoism and other Chinese philosophy is necessary for a deeper understanding of the symbol.

I do not think positive and negative apply to yin and yang. here is why: These words either refer to magnetic polarities (I have not yet read Taoist writings about magnets, and therefore ignorant to this designation) You are talking about presence or absence (I suppose, both Yin and Yang can be either more-present or more-absent), or an affirmation-progress and degradation/set-back, which is usually applying 'good-evil'/'right-wrong' to a morality-neutral energy concept.

Elements: EACH element has a Yin aspect AND a Yang aspect. (There are slightly different elements, and Taoist elemental concepts and associations and *very* different from western ones) For example, a fire is raging burning bright and fast vs. when the coals of the hearth are burning hot slow and long...

I have never heard the Tao translated as "God", always "The Way." The word 'God' in the west usually indicates a being or personality that is more or less independent.

I suppose you can "use" any symbol however you want (the first Yin-Yang was actually found on a roman shield predating Taoism)

I strongly believe that basic understanding of Taoism and other Chinese philosophies is needed for deeper understanding (I strongly caution seekers against using the internet for their research. Everything I am finding on my Google-skim is pretty bad! ;-;)
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Re: What does the yin/yang represent?

Postby Tiger-twig on Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:10 am

I think it represents the balance between things that are opposite and completely independent but sort of go together, like fire and ice.
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Re: What does the yin/yang represent?

Postby Patcharoo on Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:41 pm

A tiger and a dragon.
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Eyeris wrote:I have never heard the Tao translated as "God", always "The Way." The word 'God' in the west usually indicates a being or personality that is more or less independent.
Really early translations used "God". Why, probably ignorance. Or maybe it was simply the closest thing translators could think of at the time. However, I also know a pantheist in the modern day who considers God and Tao synonyms, but that's because God is redefined. I don't think the word matters so much as the message.
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Re: What does the yin/yang represent?

Postby Eyeris on Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:13 am

dealing with it wrote:
Eyeris wrote:I have never heard the Tao translated as "God", always "The Way." The word 'God' in the west usually indicates a being or personality that is more or less independent.
Really early translations used "God". Why, probably ignorance. Or maybe it was simply the closest thing translators could think of at the time. However, I also know a pantheist in the modern day who considers God and Tao synonyms, but that's because God is redefined. I don't think the word matters so much as the message.



Many people now do compare God and the Tao, and think of them similarly. As you say, God is redefined. Such a comparison only really started occurring after westerners starting talking to Taoists etc. and altering their views on what 'God' meant.
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