About two thousand six hundred years ago in ancient feudal China, in the small principality of Lu, a great philosopher was born. His name was Kung-tzu, better known by the Latinized form of his name: Confucius.
Confucius spent years studying human relationships and the problems of society, and concluded that the various Chinese empires were all ruled by power and law, and were all at odds with one another. He concluded that the government should be changed and act according to the guiding values of humanity (Jen) and morality (Li). He set out exactly what would encourage the development of these values. Until the rulers realized and stood up for these ideals, Confucius believed that the people would continue to be unhappy and that local wars and conflicts would go on indefinitely.
Confucius began to pass on his findings to students. Many gathered around him and he taught them again and again: how to govern a society, what future governments should look like and that future leaders should live according to the principles of humanity and morality. Then he began to travel from one realm to another, meeting kings, princes, princesses and nobles and urging them to encourage the study of the arts and the classics and to apply the principles of Jen and Li in themselves and in their society develop.
He was received politely everywhere and treated with great respect. But very few actually listened to him or tried to turn his ideas into reality.
According to a story in Shihchi, Confucius visited Lao-Tse, the great Taoist philosopher, at that time. After returning to his students, he was unable to speak for three days. Finally they asked him what had happened and he said:
“I have met kings and princes of all kinds, but now at last I have met a man who carries the energy of the infinite universe. When I opened my mouth to speak to him, I could not utter a word for several minutes.”
Finally I said to him: “From my youth I have studied day and night and have mastered the arts of music, poetry, literature, courtesy and manners, the laws of change, history and much more. I have learned more than many other people and believe that I understand exactly what these books were telling me. Now I want to spread the principles of humanity and morality among the leaders of all countries. So I visited seventy-two kings, princes, and nobles. I initiated them into the mysterious, grand methods by which the ancient kings and princes administered their lands and people. But no one wanted to listen to my words.
It seems very difficult to bring peace to the world.”
“How fortunate that no man listened to you,” Lao-Tse replied.
“You are very lucky that no one wants to follow your path to realize peace! All those studies you did were nothing but ideas. The many books are only the footprints of great men. What matters is not their books or their ideas, but their actions and behavior. And you can’t repeat that.
Times change, circumstances change, and the way to achieve peace must change too. The spirit and principles do not change, but how they are expressed and realized – that can change a lot. It is foolish to try and use the old methods as you did before. What luck that they didn’t understand you. It would only have made things worse!”
Three months later, Confucius visited Lao Tzu again and said, “Now I understand. When parents love their children, that’s natural. When the birds sing in spring, it is natural too. It is very natural that they love each other and have children; they follow the order of the universe and the laws of yin and yang. All animals, plants and all phenomena in the universe follow this natural path, including mankind. If we try to change it through our artificial intentions, it is of no use. So we must first see how the order of the universe really works, and then we can encourage people to change naturally, with no particular goals or intentions.”
And Lao-Tze replied, “Great. You understood.”
The compass of Yin and Yang will help us to regain and understand our innate and intuitive memory of the infinite order of the universe, its mechanisms of change and its manifestations in our human life and everyday life.
In order to rid ourselves of illness and anxiety, “illusions” and violence, and to dispel our misconceptions about health and happiness, we need to apply our understanding of yin and yang to our eating habits – how we choose, prepare and treat our food and drinks to take. Intellectual and spiritual well-being then arise naturally.