The perception and description of a divine triad, a trinity, runs through many different religious teachings, independent of cultural area and temporal epoch. Also, the present magazine gives some examples of such descriptions of a threefold nature of the divine. But how is it in the example of the well-known teaching of the two omnipresent movements of the Chinese Yin-Yang?
If we consider for a moment the well-known symbol of Yin-Yang, the Taijitu, this symbol seems, at first, to be characterized by an everlasting polarity that could also be understood as duality or dialectic. The Yin stands for the descending, contracting, closing, passive movement and is represented in black. The Yang stands for the ascending, expanding, opening, active movement and is represented in white. We, as humans, can undoubtedly observe and recognize these two principles of movement in our daily lives and in nature. For example, when looking across the sea, a rising crest of a wave is an expression of yang, while a crashing wave that hits the shore and crashes symbolizes Yin. But if we look more deeply at the symbol of Taijitu, we realize that the polarity of the two forces of Yin-Yang is very subtly carried by a third aspect; by an eternal harmony, a sacred order, the Dao, which carries the polarity of the forces of Yin-Yang in a triunity.
Somebody who looks at the movements of Yin-Yang in nature without awareness of the Dao experiences an eternal conflict of duality and gets lost in this dispute. He can be tempted to want to escape from this experienced strife. But wanting to escape is in itself the movement of conflict. However, when the nature of Dao begins to reveal itself in the observer, he is able to perceive in Yin-Yang the reflection of an evolving polarity that forms a divine trinity in Dao.
But what is the Dao?
The same question was asked by someone to the Chinese Daoist Liu Yiming (1734-1821). He said in response:
If you want to look at it, you do not see it, if you want to listen to it, you do not hear it, if you want to grasp it, you do not get it. It envelops and enwraps Heaven and Earth and gives life and nourishment to the ten thousand things. It is so great that there is nothing outside it, so small that there is nothing inside it. […] Fundamentally it has no name, but forced to give it a name it is called the Dao. If it is determined, one is in error, and if it is discussed, one loses it. It has no body and no image, it is not form and not emptiness, it is not Being and not Non-being. If it is attributed the images of form and emptiness, of Being and Non-being, it is not the Dao.1
In what state does this answer leave us?
We learn that Dao is beyond all knowledge and imagination. We learn that thought cannot grasp Dao and will cannot touch it. And yet it permeates and is the ground of the 10,000 things. It is, therefore, also at the bottom of man.
Now you might say all these are beautiful concepts, beautiful ideas, but what does this have to do with me in a very practical way? Is there a truth in it that man can experience? And if so, what does it mean?
In order to perceive the nature of Dao at the bottom of the movements of Yin-Yang, it requires a choiceless awareness that looks free from the contracting yin, and free from the expanding yang.
In concentrating on an image, on a mantra, on an ideal or on a method, for example, we are bound in the contracting Yin. In projecting ideas and speculation, on the other hand, the human mind is bound in the movement of expanding Yang. All this is not Dao.
So as long as the human mind is bound in the activity of Yin-Yang, it cannot perceive Dao. But if one simply perceives both, the movements of Yin and the movements of Yang in the mind without judgment, one stands neither in Yin nor in Yang. The space of awareness is itself unmoved, neither concentrating nor projecting and, therefore, awareness sinks in this stillness to the ground, the Dao.
Is it possible that all movement, inward and outward, can thus be embraced by pure awareness? Let us ask this question together. Is it possible that there is an unmoved awareness of all movements of thought, desire and will?
A "yes", "no", "maybe" or "I don't think" will not do it.
A mind that asks, from the fact of not knowing, has no direction. For it does not know where to go. So it is unmoved like Dao and at the same time receptive. In this immobility, the question bears fruit, in Dao.
The pure awareness of the inner state of disorientation, of "not knowing where to go", is the beginning of the end of disorientation. The end of disorientation does not lie outside of disorientation. It lies in the pure awareness of the inner state of disorientation. The end of the human riddle does not lie outside of the human being, it lies in the simple awareness of his very nature.
Thus, the entire movement of the human mind wants to be perceived. All movement of trying, of striving, of despair, of aligning, of speculating, out of hopelessness, out of disorientation, all movement that is lost without Dao in the polarity of Yin-Yang, wants to be perceived in this non-judgmental awareness in equality.
When it is actually perceived in this way, the inaudible sound of Dao begins to resonate deeper and deeper through the human being. Then, an unfolding conscious triunity of the divine movement resounds in man in which the old dissonant movement of Yin-Yang ends in Dao and is transformed. Dao can then unfold its sacred order in all movement with, in and through the human being who is awakening to it. This is a creative action through inaction, which is primarily of an inward nature. It is also called Wu-Wei in Daoism.
When we have begun to embrace this principle in stillness, Dao can also reveal itself in the movement of breathing. For pure awareness encompasses every aspect of human existence, including the breath. In this way, also, the natural breathing process is embraced by still awareness. The active principle Yang, with the effects of "ascending, expanding, opening", corresponds to inhaling in natural breathing. Yin with the qualities "descending, contracting, closing" corresponds to exhaling. When the natural flow of the twofold breathing flows into pure awareness, the actual triad of breath in Dao reveals itself.
Thus, we realize that no breathing technique, no intention, no control, no method, can ever bring forth the triad of breathing. For the Dao is in the beginning. It itself nourishes the 10,000 things. From it itself comes forth the natural breath. The Dao rules over everything. It cannot be controlled; it cannot be grasped. And yet it is there; beyond the content, beyond the ideal, beyond the intention, beyond the movements of the Yin-Yang.
Any intention to direct one’s attention to breathing in order to achieve something, likewise, wants to be perceived in pure awareness. So that it can end, as well, in Dao, in this non-judgmental stillness.
If we inquire into this for ourselves, we see that it is not only the physical body that receives the right rhythm of breath from Dao, but the entire human being, in its full holistic form receives its breath from Dao.
The triad of breathing in Dao resonates with the triad of the so-called Pranava, or "Om". Om, as described in the Indian Upanishads, is the higher triad of man, consisting of Atman-Buddhi-Manas.2
This trinity of the awakening, inner man includes manas, which corresponds to consciousness, buddhi, which corresponds to choiceless awareness, and atman, which corresponds to pure, creative energy of the spirit.
The new birth
The beginning triad in Dao is, therefore, at the same time a beginning harmony in all dimensions in which man exists. It is the beginning of a blossoming in mature freedom, according to the essence of his being. In the silence of the loving awareness of heart and head we can find out for ourselves whether there is truth in all this or not.
And so the question remains: What is the silence of choiceless awareness? The philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti gives an interesting answer to this question in one of his conversations with the quantum physicist David Bohm, by first taking the position of a seeker3:
Krishnamurti: I have a million years of experience, and it has given me a certain capacity. And I realize at the end of it all there is no relationship between me and truth. And that's a tremendous shock to me. […]
And `X' comes along and says, […] be silent. So, I practice silence! I have done that for a thousand years. It has led nowhere. So, there is only one thing, and that is to discover that all that I have done is useless - ashes! You see that doesn't depress one. That is the beauty of it. I think it is like the phoenix.
David Bohm: Rising from the ashes.
Krishnamurti: Born of ashes. […] Something totally new is born.
- 1. Liu Yiming (1734–1821), Xiuzhen biannan [Discussions on the cultivation of reality], translated by Fabrizio Pregadio.
- 2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, vol. XII, Wheaton, IL, Theosophical Publishing House, 1980
- 3. Dialogue 5 between Jiddu Krishnamurti and David Bohm, 1980, Ojai, California, USA, from the dialogue series "The Ending of Time".