Indian Yoni-Linga and Chinese Yin-Yang: Conceptual Comparisons

By Ding, John Zijiang | Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Indian Yoni-Linga and Chinese Yin-Yang: Conceptual Comparisons


Ding, John Zijiang, Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry


   Dao gave birth to the One; the One gave birth successively to two
   things, three things, up to ten thousand things. These ten thousand
   things contain Yin and Yang, and through this blending of Qi (vital
   energies or powers) it reaches harmony.--Laozi, Dao De Jing

   The Purva Mimamsa tells us that scriptural statement (sriti)
   indicatory mark (linga) and syntactical connection (vakya) are of
   greater force than subject-matter (prakarana) and these three means
   of proof confirm the view that the fires are independent
   meditation.--Radhakrishna, The Brahma Sutra.

The Indian philosophy of Yoni-Linga may be examined as a parallel to the Chinese philosophy of "Yin-Yang." (1) But what are the similarities and distinctions between the two kinds of dichotomies? For the sake of the theoretical formulation, some conceptual, analytical and cross-cultural perspectives appropriate for reasoning and explaining "Yoni-Linga" and "Yin-Yang" should be reconstructed in order to establish a more complete examination. This paper will make semiological, aesthetical, ontological and theological comparisons between these two of the most famous pairs of conceptual antonyms.

I. Semiological and Aesthetical Comparisons

According to The Brahman Sutra, Linga or Lingam, a term from the Sanskrit, is the indicatory or inferential mark. "The Purva Mimamsa tells us that scriptural statement (sriti), indicatory mark (linga), and syntactical connection (vakya) are of greater force than subject-matter (prakarana), and these three means of proof confirm the view that the fires are independent meditation." (2) Linga means phallus and represents the half-unity of consciousness while Yoni is the female sexual organ. Linga is always combined with its counterpart, Yoni, which forms the base from which the Linga rises. Yoni-Linga is a sexual symbolizing unity for positive and negative polarity. Etymologically and semantically, Chinese Yin means: 1) the moon or cloudy 2) dark or shadow 3) female or pistillate 4) vagina or menses 5) cold or wet 6) death or hell 7) secret or invisible 8) silence or gloomy 9) north of mountains or south of rivers, 10) shady or inside. Yang means: 1) the sun or sunshine 2) light or bright 3) male or "masculine 4) phallus or semen 5) warm or dry 6) living or recovery 7) I or myself, 8) clear or melodious 9) eyes or visible 10) south of mountains or north of rivers 11) exposed to the sun or outside. Significantly, we may find that Yin-Yang really symbolizes natural and physical objects or phenomena rather than the spiritual ones.

Both Yoni-Linga and Yin-Yang, as the metaphors, are some "signs," "marks," "symbols," "characteristics," "models," or "patterns" of certain things or ideas. (3) Most particularly, they are also some "signs" of gender, sex or generative power. It is the same with Indian Yoni and Chinese Yin, which are "icons" of the female organs of generation. Indian Linga and Chinese Yang, as the phallic symbols or emblems, designate "phallic worship." (4) Like Yin and Yang, when associated with each other, Yoni (vulva/vagina) and Linga (phallus) become a typical symbol of the divine procreative energy. By emanating its all-producing energy to the four quarters of the universe, Linga is frequently stylized though and more austere rather than appearing in its literal form as a sex symbol in an erect position. Similar to other civilizations, through ring-stones and clay figures, Yoni-Linga displaying male and female sex organs, which have been found among the urban remains of the Indus Valley. When depicted alone Yoni is referred to as a chalice (argha) or water-vessel (jalahari), sometimes shaped like a conch-shell, or represented by a downward pointing triangle. Linga is depicted as rounded at top and bottom to show that it does not stand or arise from anywhere in our space or time; it may look egg-shaped, and recall the Cosmic Egg, which size is generally determined by the size of the temple housing it. …

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