Daodejing - Other Voices
The 10,000 ThingsThis post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.
In the philosophical schools of Taoism, there really isn't much of a creation myth. The most detailed equivalent to the Biblical book of Genesis is only one stanza in a brief chapter from the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing):
"Tao gives birth to one,
One gives birth to two,
Two gives birth to three,
Three gives birth to ten thousand beings.
Ten thousand beings carry yin on their backs and embrace yang in their front,
Blending these two vital breaths to attain harmony."
-- from chapter 42, E. Chen (tr.)
The idea is that Tao is the equivalent of nothingness or void that one finds in several traditions' creation stories. From it, the One was born, some sort of undifferentiated Something that might be compared to the Hindu concept of nirvana. The One then splits into darkness and light and all the other dichotomies that are included within the concepts of yin and yang, the two. When the two unite to form the yin-yang symbol or Supreme Ultimate, that is the three. From the Supreme Ultimate (yin and yang together) were born the ten thousand things.
It is sometimes translated as the "myriad creatures" or the "ten thousand beings," but that makes one falsely assume that the concept includes only living creatures. The ten thousand things also includes inanimate objects (such as rocks, buildings, stars), emptiness (like outer space or vacuums), and abstractions (such as dreams, thoughts, principles, beliefs, language, the Internet).
The concept of the ten thousand things is important in Taoism for several reasons. It distinguishes the world of manifestation from the mystical conepts of Tao, yin, and yang, for example.
It helps students of Tao to recognize the underlying connection and unity between all people and all animals and all plants and all things and all ideas. By recognizing the many manifestations, it sometimes brings us back to an awareness of the unity from which they all have sprung. Hopefully, it helps us to keep from judging things outside ourselves as better or worse than we are...
~ from Tao Manor, author unknown, original post date: not listed ~