Accepting Change and the Yin-Yang

by Diana Rankin

Change is difficult for many of us to accept. Too often change means loss and in our Western cultural we’d rather only experience that which makes us happy. We want the up without the down.
                The seemingly opposites of life are actually complementary of one another. There is no up without the down, no depth of shadow on a spring lawn without sunlight, no knowledge of happiness without knowing its opposite.
There is a wonderful story from the mythology of China that teaches us about both sides of life– the yin-yang. It is the story of Chang’e, the Goddess of the Moon and her husband Houyi the Archer. According to legend, Chang’e and her husband Houyi were immortals who lived in heaven and enjoyed all the privileges of that life. One day the ten sons of the Jade Emperor transformed into ten suns. Their intensity began to scorch Earth and her people.
Unsuccessful in stopping his sons, the Emperor summoned Houyi the archer, who used his skills to send an arrow to nine of the sons, but spared the tenth, so Earth would have warmth and light. Although the Emperor was pleased that Earth was no longer burning, he was not happy to lose nine of his sons. Instead of being rewarded for saving Earth, Houyi was punished. He and his wife Chang’e were banished from heaven and forced to live as mortals on Earth.
Chang’e, being the goddess that she was, did not accept this change gracefully.  When Houyi saw how miserable his wife was over the loss of her immortality, he being the hero that he was, left his home and began a quest for the fabled Pill of Immortality, so they could once again become immortal and live in heaven.
After a long and dangerous journey, Houyi finally came to the home of the Queen Mother of the West and Goddess of longevity and eternal bliss. As she gave him the Pill of Immortality, she cautioned him to give half the pill to Chang’e and for him to take half. “To take more than half is dangerous,” the great queen and goddess warned.
Houyi returned home from his adventure and stored the Pill of Immortality in a beautiful case. He showed the case to Chang’e, but warned her to not open it while he was out attending to business. Well, you can imagine how curious Chang’e became. Here was this beautiful case with something mysterious inside. She held the case in her hand as though she could discern what was inside just by holding it. Finally, she could stand it no longer, and opened the case only to find not a rare gem or pearl, but a simple pill.
She took the pill out to examine it, touched it to her tongue just to see what it tasted like, and just at that very moment Houyi opened the door. Chang’e panicked and accidently swallowed the entire pill. Immediately she began to float upward . . . higher and higher and higher. Houyi took out his bow and arrow and started to shoot her down, but he could not bear to harm her, so he let her continue to float, and she floated all the way to the moon.
This is the way Chang’e came to represent the moon and Houyi the sun, the yin-yang, linked opposites that create the whole.

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