Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ziporyn on Yin-Yang IV: Cyclic Transformation

Scott Bradley


Combining the lines of Yin (broken) and Yang (unbroken) into pairs, we have cyclic transition in a structural form. Two Yangs, representing maturity, corresponds to summer, and has been called "Old Yang". This transforms into a Yin over Yang (a Yang to Yin transition; reading up), corresponds to autumn, and is called "Young Yin". Two Yins corresponds to winter, the time of death and dormancy, and is called "Old Yin". This transforms into Yang over Yin (a Yin to Yang transition), corresponds to Spring, and is called "New Yang". Such is life . . . and death; the cyclic nature of existence.

Zhuangzi's philosophical Daoism suggests our present Yang-ing will be disharmonious when we don't take into account its emergence from and return to Yin. He calls this "seeing life and death as a single thread". This entails no guarantee of the perpetuation of a specific identity, and thus he recommends the surrender of a fixed-identity, something we fear to lose, into no-fixed-identity, something that we enjoy and use, but do not grasp and allow to morph even in the temporal sphere ("now a horse, now a cow").

How do we do this? Ah, well, there's the rub. Is it experienced as some form of enlightenment — something that happens to us — as might seem to be the case with Ziqi, who entered a trance and lost his "me", or Yan Hui who, after practicing "fasting of the heart-mind" (becoming empty), realized 'he' "had not yet begun to exist"? Or is it through the contemplation of our existential circumstance ("The Illumination of the Obvious") whereby we gradually transform our life-interpretive paradigm? Perhaps the latter also leads to the former. Or perhaps nothing of the sort can (or is likely to) occur in either case. Entertaining that possibility, are we not well advised to engage in either as an end in itself? Perhaps that's the real point after all — to enjoy the process, whatever one we choose. Then "success" would be of no great importance.

I close with the great heresy, but one with which I believe Zhuangzi would enthusiastically concur: None of it matters in any ultimate sense. All is well. Rejoice and be glad.

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