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The Eight Dialectics of the Universe

(Translated by Transn and Edited by Kaer)

Taiji thinking teaches us that everything in the universe comes from the unity of opposites and the symmetry of Yin and Yang. Opposing sides exist in the same unity; one is the condition for the other and disappears when the other does. Within a certain range, one flourishes as the other declines. Extremes meet and things develop in opposite directions when they become extreme; for example:

  • “Know the male, but conform to the female”
  • “Sages put themselves last but find themself in front; they regard their bodies as accidental, and are thereby preserved”
  • “Life is the root of death and death is the root of life”
  • “Yin and Yang are the roots of each other”
  • “To yield is to be preserved whole; to be bent is to become straight; to be hollow is to be filled; to be tattered is to be renewed”
  • The growth and decline, the generating, sustaining, destroying and changing of any two opposites are dialectical.

There are eight dialectics in the universe:

  1. Form is emptiness and emptiness is form
  2. When things exhaust, they revive; when they end, they begin anew
  3. The small can grow big; details matter
  4. Life and death are the roots of each other; Yin flourishes when Yang declines
  5. To have nothing is to have everything; to have everything is to have nothing
  6. Where the mind abides nowhere, nature prevails; where the mind abides somewhere, nature recedes
  7. Stillness and motion coexist; light and dark are interdependent
  8. Positive and negative are symmetrical but proportion restrains

Form is emptiness and emptiness is Form

The three elements of the universe are consciousness, structure, and energy; they are all nonmaterial. The existence of any single element is emptiness.

  • See it, and you will not see its form
  • Hear it, and you will not hear its trace
  • Meet it, and you will not know its face
  • Follow it, and you will not find its back

Once the three join together though, there is lustrous and dazzling form, changing countlessly and into a myriad of images. Therefore, form comes from emptiness and emptiness is form. When emptiness comes, there is form, because form is emptiness.

If a mind abides in form, it is in emptiness; if a mind abides in emptiness, it is in form. You pursue form, but form is never there; you pursue emptiness, and you get form. Pursuing form results in emptiness; pursuing emptiness results in form.

 When things exhaust, they revive; when they end, they begin anew

“Extremes meet; things develop in opposite directions when they become extreme”. When you reach your peak, you go downhill. Extreme happiness leads to sorrow and extreme sorrow leads to happiness. Extreme Yin is Yang and extreme Yang is Yin. The softest becomes the hardest and the hardest becomes the softest. There is a time to rise and a time to fall. When a thing reaches its the prime, it will be old and will revive. The end of the infinitely big is the infinitesimally small and the end of infinitesimally small is the infinitely big. When something saturates, it turns bad. Things change at critical points. Extreme beauty leads to ugliness and extreme ugliness leads to beauty. Extreme goodness forms evil and extreme evil forms goodness. That is, “Great Virtue is no virtue and Great Benevolence is heartless.”

Haste makes waste. “One who understands Tao appears dull of comprehension and one who advances in Tao appears to slip backwards”. To pursue happiness, you must avoid extremes. To revive, go for the extreme.    

The small can grow big; details Matter

Matter is composed of molecules, composed of atoms. “A tree with a full span’s girth begins from a tiny sprout; a nine-storied terrace begins with a clod of earth”. From small beginnings, one can see how things will develop and grow. “Difficulties are over come by easy things; great things are accomplished by the details.”

Details matter: “Deal with the big while it is yet small; deal with the difficult while it is yet easy”. Start from the beginning and start from the small but do not lose track of the big picture; molehills make mountains; do not neglect small things or you will never accomplish big things.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. Any future success depends on the present. Small details and tiny things lead to grand achievements.     

Life and death are the roots of each other; Yin flourishes when Yang declines

Life is the root of death and death is the root of life. No life, no death; no death, no life. Life and death alternate and each follows the other.

Yang flourishes when Yin declines and Yin flourishes when Yang declines

Every moment of every day has birth and deathvirtue

One dies here but is born there

Hard is born as soft dies

Good is born as evil dies

One departs from the mortal world and is born into the celestial world; a human heart dies and the heart of a Celestial Being is born

If you keep the old, you will get nothing new

If you are selfish, you will never reach the Elysium world.

Out of life, death enters. Those who are not afraid of death will live. The created universe carries Yin at its back and Yang in front, and vice versa. Seek life, and you will die; seek death, and you will live.     

  To have nothing is to have everything; to have everything is to have nothing

Out of nothing, there is something. The less you possess, the more you have; the more you possess, the less you have. When you possess nothing, you can have everything; when you have everything, you can possess nothing. The more you have the more emptiness you feel, the more illusory it is, and the more real it is. Walk into the spiritual pure land, and you will see a wonderful world; pursue wealth, power, and lust, and you will have endless troubles. Being and non-being interconnect in growth. If you want to have something in heaven, give it up in the mortal world. To have nothing is to have everything.

By the existence of things, we profit, and by the non-existence of things, we are served; work on non-existence for existence. 

Where the mind abides nowhere, nature prevails; where the mind abides somewhere, nature recedes

Nature is the quality of origin, which is Buddha. The reason that people cannot attain Buddhahood is that their minds abide somewhere. If their minds abided nowhere, they would attain Buddhahood. When one’s mind abides nowhere, nature shows; when their mind abides somewhere, nature recedes. This is dialectical; one advances as the other retreats. Different forms give birth to different souls. When minds abide somewhere, trouble comes. Therefore, “If your mind abides somewhere, it will be in falsehood; it should not abide in form, sound, smell, taste, touch, or dharma; it should abide nowhere”. When the mind abides nowhere, it can abide everywhere, and when the soul can transcend over all forms and show the nature, one can reach the Elysium world.

“He who focuses too much on the specific, cannot see the genera”l; a mind that abides somewhere, cannot go to the Elysium world; one who acquire enlightenment can perceive nature, one who lack mind can show nature. 

Stillness and motion coexist; light and dark are interdependent

Stillness is the source of motion, it cannot be dynamic if it is not static; motion is the root of stillness, it cannot be static if it is not dynamic. Stillness and motion co-exist and come from each other; strong motion comes from great stillness; great stillness comes from strong motion.

All things derive from stillness but are accomplished in motion: without stillness, there is no motion; without motion, there are no accomplishments.

Light comes out of darkness and darkness comes from light; heaven and hell, one light and the other dark; extreme darkness is light and extreme light is darkness.Fortune and adversity go together; out of waste, grows grass; bliss is unfelt until after it leaves. Good fortune lies within bad; bad fortune lurks within good. There are times to act and times to not act; those who act at the wrong times, spoil things. One should never fear the dark; out of extreme darkness comes light. Knowing the dialectic of the universe, one can enjoy the light cautiously, for from extreme light comes darkness. 

   Positive and negative are symmetrical, but proportion restrains

  • Those who differ from the crowd will be slandered.
  • “An outstanding tree in the forest will be destroyed by wind.”
  • “Those who enjoy great fame will be envied but those who are most favoured will be slandered.”
  • 36-Dimensional Space is arranged symmetrically; the forces of action and reaction are equal but in opposition; all things reinforce and neutralize each other mutually; there is always one thing to overcome the other. There is heaven and there is hell; all things develop in proportion; chaos and the early devastation were the results of imbalance
  • Boundless avarice leads to disaster;

Conform to nature and give up inordinate ambitions; understand that everything has two sides, and that perfection is unattainable. Rivers run into the sea, so you can never drink them all.

Tao is the theory of Yin and Yang; maintaining a balance between the two is rational. Knowing the dialectic principle is wise, and complying with the laws of nature can be regarded as virtue.


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