The Book of Yin and Yang

Although many people regard the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu as “The book  of yin and yang”, there is only one chapter in the ancient book that explicitly mentions the terms “Yin” and “Yang.” 

This reference can be found in chapter 42, where Lao Tzu states: “All things carry yin yet embrace yang. They blend their life breaths in order to produce harmony.”

Why is that so? 

Although Lao Tzu does not use the terms directly, the concept of yin and yang permeates the entire book. Like Lao Tzu says, “All things carry Yin yet embrace Yang,” the forces of yin and yang are present everywhere and in everything. It is necessary to comprehend the interplay between these two forces to harness the power of nature.

Throughout the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu uses various descriptions to elucidate the nature of yin and yang. They include doing and non-doing, soft and hard, yielding and rigid, and many others. While the sage does not use the terms explicitly, the implication is clear. We must look beyond the surface and grasp the essence.

Lao Tzu reminds us, “The Tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name.” This principle applies to the descriptions of yin and yang as well.

As far as the concepts of yin and yang are concerned, the most comprehensive rendition in the book is chapter two. Where Lao Tzu says:  

“We all know beauty as beauty
Because of ugliness.
The good as good
Because of the not-so-good.
Being and non-being engender each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low play off each other.
Sound and voice harmonize each other.
Front and back follow each other.
Thus the Sage does by non-doing,
Teaches by not saying a word.
Things are left to live by their nature,
And the Sage rejects none.
They create but possess not.
Do but seek no glory.
Accomplish but claim no credit.
Alas! As they claim no credit,
The Tao leaves them not.”

Tekson Teo, A Practitioner’s Translation

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