The positive spirit of human life
What is “Jing, Qi, Shen”?
The concept of Jing, Qi, Shen is simple to explain, yet difficult to understand.
When Taoist wisdom revealed these basic cultivation elements, secular society was unable to comprehend their fundamental essence, which consequently led society to produce their own radical misinterpretations.
To illustrate this point, the Jing is usually understood as the “spirit“ (referring to mental health) or “lustful desire” (referring to semen) however both of these understandings are limited, one-sided and only cause confusion when trying to understand the true meaning of Jing.
“Jing” represents the essence of our blood; this is the true meaning of Jing. Blood maintains life through the steady supply of nutrients and energy throughout the body. Daily activities are made possible by the uninterrupted flow of blood circulating through our bodies. For Taoists, the circulatory system is also known as the “the foundation of life”. Without this process, life is simply not possible. A key component in the topic of Jing is semen. The release of semen through sexual intercourse originates from the link between the Yuanjing (original Jing) and the blood. Each time this release process takes place, precious Yangjing (positive Jing) is spent and life is compromised. Such is the extent of the damage that Taoists created this saying “Love Jing value Qi, complement intelligence with the essence of Jing Qi”.
“Qi” (炁 in Taoist translation) is the most crucial of the fundamental cultivation elements. Its substance is in the form of a gas. It includes our vital oxygen but most importantly, the Yuanqi (meaning original Qi), which resides in our kidneys. There are various forms of Qi such as the ‘internal Qi’ that relates to one’s health, the ‘Qi of breathing’ refers to the process of inhaling and exhaling, also the ‘external Qi’ which refers to the Qi of nature, above all these the Yuanqi holds the most importance because of its function. Yuanqi is the original basis of life. Its coexistence with semen and blood is indispensable and key for our survival.
“Shen”(positive spirit) is even more complex to define. The concept of Shen is generally associated with the likes of religion, witchcraft and superstitious ideology. From a Taoist standpoint, Shen is not related to God or Gods taught in religious contexts and doctrines, instead it is something we all posses naturally.
Even a variety of animals have a “spirit” or “conscious life energy”. These spirits are divided into Yin and Yang (negative and positive); the “Yang” Shen accompanies a living person or animal, the shadow of (Yin) Shen accompanies dead people or animals. The fact is, Yangshen (positive spirit) is within us from birth and once it is fully exhausted, life ends.
Taoists aim to prevent consumption of positive Shen to avoid an early death. In Taoist practice there are three types of Shen that endure forever, “the positive spirit that wants to fly high into the sky”, “the negative spirit that wants to descend into the depths of the abyss” and the “resurrection of the soul”.
To disregard the essence of Jing, Qi, Shen means to ignore concepts that are the foundations of human life; on the other hand, to highly regard Jing, Qi and Shen, means the exact opposite, happiness and fulfilment. The sooner you begin to acknowledge the true value of Jing, Qi and Shen, the easier it is to comprehend their true meaning.
When Chinese people greet each other in familiar terms, one of the most commonly used greetings is “your spirit is not bad” (meaning you look great) which is in fact a reference to the person’s overall physical appearance. Another one is “you have enough spirit” referring to the person’s beautiful appearance.
There are many other examples that illustrate just how deeply rooted fundamental Taoist terminology is in today’s society, even though their meaning has been greatly diminished and generalized through a lack of knowledge and understanding.
The spirit is the fundamental essence of an individual or a country, a person with an ample positive spirit will more likely succeed in their career, equally but on a larger scale, a nation will flourish. On the other hand, a country without a positive spirit will decline and individuals will perish.
Western countries advocate promiscuous and decadent lifestyles that result in the depletion of people’s essential energy which results in destroying people’s lives. Understanding daily struggles such as stress, depression and recurring health issues are a direct consequence of depleted energy. With the lack of this essence, how can one possibly achieve a positive and successful life?
People who lose the nourishing qualities of the essence are comparable to “a hundred rivers flooding the ocean and then causing it to overturn”, in this situation, how can anyone consider or even discuss the possibility of success or the prosperity of a country? Taoism is the simplest and most certain path to survival for every individual and country.
The crucial question is how can one restore and preserve the essence of the “positive spirit”? For one, we must become highly aware of the fact that we lose life at any given moment. This awareness can be described as “sensing and recognising all the causes of these leaks”. Those that acknowledge this have hope of managing and reducing these daily leaks as well as preventing and repairing incurred damage.
Consciousness to action is only a step away. Remove yourself as far as possible from the sensual pleasures and the lure of worldly desires, doing so will lead you to a state of awakening, where you will be able to refresh the body and mind, restrengthen the bones, retain longer lasting youthfulness, replenish all that has been depleted and recover your precious life energy. You could even say this process is like being born again, eventually leading to a permanent connection with the Tao.
The ancient sages purposely sought solitude because of their inward search; this allowed them to endure extended periods of loneliness but it also provided them with the opportunity to expand their wisdom through this inward focus.
Needless to say if your pursuit is of the external kind then you will undoubtedly wrestle with the many pitfalls that plague humanity such as materialism and you will gradually accumulate significant negativity that will ruin your life. The “inward search” signifies obtaining help directly from the Shen, this is a practical and effective method.
We must not allow desire to infiltrate and consume our hearts, in the same manner we must not disturb the Jing nor damage the Qi, doing so draws us toward the path of death. We must do everything within our power to protect and maintain the gift of the three treasures of “Jing, Qi, Shen”.
By © Master Dong Yang