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The yin and yang symbol

In recent times, Chinese symbols and paraphernalia have glutted the market world-wide and Feng Shui which is the traditional art and science of land selection for residential and official purposes has suddenly become the rage.

One of the most popular symbols, that greet the eye, is the ‘yin and yang’ symbol on a round plate. The black eye is surrounded by a major white tail and the white eye on the tail end is surrounded by a black portion. Both look like a fish with a tail. And this symbol bears an air of mysticism and those who know a bit on Chinese symbolism regard it as a sense of unity and solidarity.  In reality, the yin and yang symbol signifies much more than unity or solidarity. The symbol is what psychologist Carl Jung calls ‘anima’ and ‘animus’ and what the Hindus call Ardhanari nateshwara.

When Adam and Eve descended on earth, there was no power struggle and no spiritual books claiming one gender was superior to the other. Due to certain biological limitations, women assumed the role of the nurturer and men assumed the role of the provider. Thus, women tended to the home front, bore children, nurtured and raised them, while men hunted, ploughed fields, fought wars and provided for the people at home.  However, somewhere along the line, globally, men began denigrating women till ultimately, today there is an ugly imbalance and the battle between the sexes is an ongoing battle.

Our ancestors must’ve found a few exceptions to the rule, where a timid man lived with a determined woman! Thus this woman became the bread-winner and the man must’ve tended to children! And in course of time, the woman must’ve become a bit more assertive and the man yielding. However, when someone breaks rules, somebody benefits and those who benefited were the unscrupulous, nosy society, which relegated the position of women, binding her to the shackles of superstitions and guilt.  

The Chinese will tell you that ‘yin’ is the female, representing night, dampness, dimness, submissiveness, downward and inwards and that ‘yang’ is the male, representing day, brightness, dryness, strength, upwards and outwards. However, a closer look at the symbol will reveal that the black mass contains a dot of white at the head and that the white mass contains a black dot in the head. This in reality symbolizes the balance that nature has created.

According to Carl Jung, the average male possesses 70% masculine traits, 15% feminine traits and another 15% of childlike traits! Masculine traits are akin to Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ trait, his need to fight wars, his outgoing nature, his courage to counter danger etc. Most men have this daring streak in them. However, men also have an emotional side-to care for his young ones, to cry when hurt, sympathize and empathize and to be a part of a group. His childlike qualities are curiosity, the need to experiment, quiz, find out and even play like children joyously.

Similarly, women too possess 70% feminine qualities like the ability to nurture, sympathize, empathize etc, 15% masculine traits that make them assertive, independent, ambitious and self-reliant. The balance 15% is the child like trait of being inquisitive, joyous and carefree.  Whenever masculinity in men and feminine qualities in women are too pronounced by their absence or presence, there is an imbalance. You can’t expect men to watch helplessly at a crying infant. Similarly, when a man is confined due to sickness, a woman can’t be too docile and unable to fend for herself. And there’s the age-old proverb, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” So, a life full of cares, worries and seriousness without simple pleasures, ages one too quickly. Here the child-like qualities come to the rescue. This is the essence of the yin and yang symbol.

It is a reminder asking us to lead a more balanced life. While it’s perfectly fine for women to go out there and work rubbing shoulders with men, and perfectly fine for men to wash dishes, a balance has to be sought. If one consumes too much of salty food, the tongue craves for sweets and if one consumes plenty of sweets, a craving for pungent food is quite natural.  When it’s hot and stuffy, all that’s needed is open the windows, turn on the air-conditioning. And in colder regions, sitting around a bonfire is all that’s needed.

While acclimatizing to nature and environment is natural and easy, coping with changing human behavior can be tough. It is a mistaken notion that oriental societies of yore advocated that women resigned to the temper tantrums of their husbands or fathers. Ancient oriental wisdom, in fact advised couples to remain silent and allow their spouses to vent their feelings and worries. This mode of silence is applicable even to men.

In Hindu mythology, it is said, “Without Shakti, Shiva is shava,” meaning without the feminine energy, the male is impotent or as good as dead. In physics it is proven that energy is the catalyst that causes movements or transformations. A thing can have potential energy, but kinetic energy is of paramount importance for the transformation.  Shiva represents the yin energy in spite of being the male form and Shakti His female consort represents the masculine force or the yang, despite being a woman. Legend has it that in order to destroy a demon, Goddess Parvati Shiva’s wife, assumed the form of Kali and went on a killing rampage, destroying not only evil forces, but also vanquishing whatever came in her way. Just then, Shiva her husband posed as a corpse and lay on her way. Upon stumbling on her husband, Kali (Parvati) realized her folly. This only goes to show that too much of yang is harmful. She had to return to her yin side. When Shakti is yang, the legend shows the destructive power of yang energy. Later, she lay her one foot on his chest and brought him back to life. In order to quell her fury, He started crying like an infant, which stirred Kali’s maternal instincts and brought back the yin force in her. Here again, the legend goes to prove how yin and yang are both sides of the same coin.     

Where Shiva is the seed, Shakti is the energy, the primordial life force that breathes life into the body and brings the seed to fruition!

The heavens are considered yang and the earth yin. When man proposes, the woman yields. The rains that descend from heaven that is yang, descends downwards, exhibiting its yin quality. The earth that’s yin looks upwards and receives rains and thus is productive. Being yin, the earth, makes itself yang, as creation is, energy that is yang.   None is superior to the other. If rains fall on concrete ground, no seed will germinate and the rain water just flows uselessly. Without rains, the seeds that have the potential to grow into sturdy trees will remain scattered and dry. Thus the wisdom of the yin and the yang only speaks about harmony and equality, not superiority.

The image of the Hindu Goddess Mahishasuramardhini, is depicted Her as seated on the ferocious lion. You could draw parlance in the tarot card ‘Strength’! The ferocity of the lion is yang, but is portrayed as yin when the beast is controlled by Shakti who is yin. The Goddess being a yin force has her yang side as she successfully controls the yang, ferocious lion!   A king or leader is respected by his subjects only when he displays his leadership qualities through his generosity, mercy and benevolent qualities. A queen is respected when she fights injustice and corruption through her inherent qualities of being just and loving.

The yang head mingling with the tail of the yin and vice-versa also reminds us of the proverb, “Darker the night, closer the dawn”! In despair, we can find strength and this strength will soon show us the light. And when life seems too good, let’s prepare for the bad times too, with equanimity and poise.

 The black mass with a white eye or dot reminds us that even the worst of mankind will have a bit of goodness, if nurtured, will shine like a star in the night sky! The white mass with a black eye or dot reminds us that none is perfect. One black dot is always prevalent, urging us to keep striving and excelling!


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