Change and Transformation
“The general trend of the world is as such: what has been separated for a long time will necessarily reunite, and what has been united for a long time will necessarily come apart.” ~Romance of the Three Kingdoms
The phenomenon of Change and Transformation has been observed since the beginnings of Chinese civilisation. At the weakest point of the Zhou dynasty during the Spring and Autumn period, many vassal states fought and competed among themselves until the kingdom of Qin rose up to conquer and unite the entire China, giving rise to the beginning of imperial China. But when Qin’s destiny had been fulfilled, the Han dynasty came up to replace the Qin. The Han dynasty later also crumbled and was replaced by the Three Kingdoms. Throughout the entire Chinese imperial history, we observe old dynasties being replaced by newer dynasties, each claiming to be the rightful chosen one by Heaven. Each ruling house saw themselves as being part of a cycle of dynasties defined by the Five Elements as seen in the image below.
The Chinese civilisation hence, is no stranger to the concept of Change and Transformation and this concept is reflected in the three big traditions of China, which are namely Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
Impermanence is the cornerstone of Buddhism. Buddhists believe impermanence to be part of nature and nobody can escape from it. In fact, not understanding the necessity of Change and Transformation would lead to one being unhappy and suffer as a result. In fact, many practices of Buddhism serves to remind people of this concept.
For example, we often see Buddhists laying flowers in temples. The freshness, fragrance and beauty of flowers are known to be impermanent. Plucking a flower from its’ stem and leaving it aside would lead to the flower becoming withered, scentless and discoloured. The practice of offering flowers hence serves to remind the devotee that all things are impermanent and hence they should appreciate what they have and live in the moment.
Similarly, Change and Transformation is a concept embodied in Confucius’ idea of the mandate of Heaven. Confucius believed that every ruling house embodies the will of Heaven and that the mandate of Heaven can shift from time to time. When the mandate of Heaven shifts, it means that the current dynasty will be replaced by a new dynasty and prior to that, warning signs such as natural disasters, downfalls or mishaps happening to the populace will be observed. It was believed that the people eyes and ears are Heaven’s eyes and ears.
In Taoism, Change and Transformation is reflected as part of Nature. There have been many Taoist accounts of cross-species transformation, supported by the belief in the Oneness of all things.
For instance, the Book of Transformation, authored by a Taoist thinker Tan Qiao, features many stories of snakes transforming into turtles, sparrows transforming into clams and even maple trees turning into feathered people. Taoism suggests that all physical forms are not fixed. It is natural for one form to exist in another form and mankind is the one causing things to be fixed as it is. There is no Yin and Yang and everything Is just Taiji, chaos. Nothing is differentiated, and the world is not made up of categories as we are all part of the one Dao. Therefore, transforming from one form to another is viewed as nothing strange.
In a nutshell…
The world we live in today, is changing rapidly and the concept of change and impermanence put forth by the ancient sages still holds true. It would be a mistake to think that this concept is only applicable to antiquity times because even in contemporary times, it is still very relevant.
We should understand that mourning over the loss of something or someone would be equivalent to conflicting with destiny. Therefore, an enlightened being would be wiser to use his knowledge and understanding of this natural order and its inevitably, to dispel his emotions than resist it.
This essay is a shortened version of an essay which i wrote in 2018. It is the product of many hours of research and online web browsing. The reason why i only posted a portion of it is because, on hindsight, i realise that the entire essay wasn’t written very well. Hence, i only want to post a small part of it which i hope might be interesting.