"All disease and suffering arise out of the imbalances of the Three Treasures, Jing, Qi and Shen." – Ron Teeguarden, M.H.
NOTE by Ricardo B Serrano, Master Herbalist: With thanks and acknowledgement to Dan-O Sun Sha Ron Teeguarden, Master Herbalist, whose knowledge on the Three Treasures, Chinese tonic herbs and Korean Mountain Taoism have assisted Oriental medicine practitioners including myself in my quest toward radiant health and happiness through his classic book, The Ancient Wisdom of Chinese Tonic Herbs, and herbal teachings at Ron Teeguarden's Blog World.
In the Daoist tradition, which forms the foundation of the traditional Oriental healing and health-promoting arts, there are said to be Three Treasures that in effect constitute our life. These are known as Jing, Qi and Shen. There are no exact translations for these terms in English, but they are generally translated as Essence, Vitality, and Spirit.
The ultimate goal of all of the Oriental healing and health-promoting arts is to cultivate, balance and expand the Three Treasures. At the highest level of the Oriental healing arts, the practitioner is attempting to harmonize all aspects of one's being. This is accomplished by focusing one's attention on the Three Treasures.
The author's great teacher, Master Sung Jin Park, used to describe the Three Treasures by comparing them to a burning candle. Jing is like the wax and wick, which are the substantial parts of the candle. They are made of material, which is essentially condensed energy. The flame of the lit candle is likened to Qi, for this is the energetic activity of the candle, which eventually results in the burning out of the candle. The radiance given off by the flaming candle is Shen. The larger the candle and the better the quality of the wax and wick, the steadier will be its flame and the longer the candle will last. The greater and steadier the flame, the steadier the light given off and the greater the light. Master Park described the Three Treasures in some detail:
There are three treasures in the human body. These are known as Jing, Qi and Shen. Of these three, only Qi has received some recognition in the West so far. Qi is but one of the Three Treasures – the other two are equally wondrous.
Jing has been called the "superior ultimate" treasure, even though even in a healthy, radiant body, the quantity is small. Jing existed before the body existed, and this Jing enters the body tissues and becomes the root of our body. When we keep Jing within our body, our body can be vigorous. If a person cares for the Cavity of Jing [a space within the lower abdomen], and does not hurt it recklessly, it is very easy to enjoy a life of great longevity. Without Jing energy, we cannot live.
Qi is the invisible life force which enables the body to think and perform voluntary movement. The power of Qi can be seen in the power that enables a person to move and live. It can be seen in the movement of energy in the cosmos and in all other movements and changes. Coming from heaven into the body through the nose (Yang Gate), it circulates through the twelve meridians [the energy circuitry of the body] to nourish and preserve the inner organs.
Shen energy is similar to the English meaning of the words "mind" and "spirit." It is developed by the combination of Jing and Qi energy. When these two treasures are in balance, the mind is strong, the spirit is great, the emotions are under control, and the body is strong and healthy. But it is very difficult to expect a sound mind to be cultivated without sound Jing and Qi. An old proverb says that a sound mind lives in a sound body. When cultivated, Shen will bring peace of mind.
When we develop Jing, we get a large amount of Qi automatically. When we have a large amount of Qi, we will also have strong Shen, and we will become bright and glowing as a holy man.
Jing is the first Treasure and is translated as "Regenerative Essence," or simply as "Essence." Jing is the refined energy of the body. It provides the foundation for all activity and is said to be the "root" of our vitality. Jing is the primal energy of life. It is closely associated with our genetic potential, and is associated with the aging process. Jing is stored energy and provides the reserves required to adapt to all the various stresses encountered in life. Since Jing is concentrated energy, it manifests materially. Jing also is said to control a number of primary human functions: the reproductive organs and their various substances and functions; the power and clarity of the mind; and the integrity of one's physical structure. Jing, which is a blend of Yin and Yang energy, is said to be stored in the "Kidney." Jing is generally associated these days with the hormones of the reproductive and adrenal glands, and Jing is the vital essence concentrated in the sperm and ova.
It is considered extremely difficult to enhance the original Jing after conception, although it is not at all difficult to deplete and weaken it, and thus to weaken and shorten one's life. The only way to strengthen the original Jing is through specific highly sophisticated yogic techniques such as those developed by the Daoists and by consuming certain potent tonic herbs known as Jing tonics. The purpose of taking Jing tonic herbs is to maintain healthy levels of postnatal Jing. If postnatal Jing is maintained at sufficient levels, prenatal Jing is used much more slowly and the aging process is slowed down.
When Jing is strong, vitality and youthfulness remain. Strong Jing energy in the Kidneys, so the Chinese say, will lead to a long and vigorous life, while a loss of Jing will result in physical and mental degeneration and a shortening of one's life. Jing is essential to life and when it runs low our life force is severely diminished and thus we lose all power to adapt. The quantity of Essence determines both our life span and the ultimate vitality of our life. Jing is burned up in the body by life itself, but most especially by chronic and acute stress and excessive behavior, including overwork, excessive emotionalism, substance abuse, chronic pain or illness, and marital excess (especially in men). Excessive menstrual patterns, pregnancy and childbirth can result in a dramatic drain on the Jing of a woman, especially in middle aged women. When Jing is depleted below a level required to survive, we die. Eventually everyone runs out of Jing and thus everyone dies (at least physically).
Qi, the second Treasure, is the energy that creates our vitality. Through the constant interaction of Yin and Yang change is brought into being. Qi is the activity of Yin and Yang. Movement, functioning and thought is the result of Qi. The nature of Qi is to move. In the Three Treasures system includes both Energy and Blood. It nourishes and protects us. Qi is said to be produced as a result of the functions of the Lungs and Spleen. Therefore, Qi tonics strengthen the digestive, assimilative and respiratory functions.
When Qi condenses, it becomes Jing. Fast moving Qi is considered to be Yang while slow moving Qi is Yin. In the system of the Three Treasures, blood is considered to be a part of the Qi component of our being. Blood is said to be produced from the food ingested after the Qi has been extracted through the action of the Spleen. The red blood cells are said to be nutritive and are thus associated with the Ying Qi (Yin), while the white blood cells are protective and are associated with Wei Qi (Yang). Qi tonics are generally believed to have potent immune modulating activity. Qi tonics, composed of Energy and/or Blood tonics, increase our ability to function fully and adaptively as human beings.
Shen is the third Treasure. Shen is the Holy Spirit which directs Qi. It may also be translated as our "higher consciousness." This is ultimately the most important of the Three Treasures because it reflects our higher nature as human beings. Chinese masters say that Shen is the all-embracing love that resides in our "Heart," a primary organ system. Shen is the spiritual radiance of a human being and is the ultimate and most refined level of energetics in the universe. Shen is not considered to be an emotion, or even a state of mind. It presides over the emotions and manifests as all-encompassing compassion, and non-discriminating, non-judgemental awareness. Shen is expressed as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance. It manifests as our wisdom and our ability to see all sides of all issues, our ability to rise above the world of right and wrong, good and bad, yours and mine, high and low, and so on. Shen is our higher knowledge that everything is one, even though nature manifests dualistically and cyclically, often obscuring our vision and creating illusion.
Our true Spirit, which the Chinese call Shen, is the spark of divinity that resides within the heart of every human being and manifests as love, kindness, compassion, generosity, giving, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, tenderness and the appreciation of beauty. It is the Spirit of a human being as the divine messenger, the channel of God's will and love. Shen is the purpose of all spiritual paths. It is the Buddha's desire to end suffering and it is Christ's love and compassion... Shen manifests only when the heart is open. Once the heart is open, Shen manifests as light that illuminates the path of a man or woman in life's journey toward the spiritual goal and along the spiritual path.
Source: Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs by Ron Teeguarden, M.H., 1998.
Ricardo's Notes (Excerpts from Dr. Ni's Neijing Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine):
The following quotations from Dr. Ni's Neijing talked about the practice of Qigong and the Tao, the Way of Life, for healing and life extension:
Chapter 1, The Universal Truth
Yellow Emperor Huang Di asked, "I've heard of people in ancient times, spoken of as the immortals, who knew the secrets of the universe and held yin and yang, the world, in the palm of their hands. They extracted essence from nature and practiced various diciplines such as Dao-in and Qigong and breathing and visualization exercises, to integrate the body, mind and spirit. They remained undisturbed and thus attained extraordinary levels of accomplishment. Can you tell me about them?"
Qi Bo responded, "The immortals kept their mental energies focused and refined, and harmonized their bodies with the environment. Thus, they did not show conventional signs of aging and were able to live beyond their biological limitations.
"Not so long ago there were people known as achieved beings who had true virtue, understood the Way of Life, and were able to adapt to and harmonize with the universe and the seasons. They too were able to keep their mental energy through proper concentration.
"These achieved beings did not live like ordinary humans, who tended to abuse themselves. They were able to travel freely to different times and places since they were not governed by conventional views of time and space. Their sense of perceptions were supernormal, going far beyond the sight and hearing of ordinary humans. They were also able to preserve their life spans and live in full health, much as the immortals did.
"There was a third type of a person, known as the sage. The sages lived peacefully under Heaven and Earth, following the rhythms of the planet and the universe. They adapted to society without being swayed by cultural trends. They were free from emotional extremes and lived a balanced, contented existence. Their outward appearance, behavior and thinking did not reflect the conflicting norms of society. The sages appeared busy but were never depleted. Internally they
did not overburden themselves. They abided in calmness, recognizing the empty nature of phenomenological existence. The sages lived over one hundred years because they did not scatter and disperse their energies.
"A fourth type were the natural people who followed the Tao, the Way of Life, and were called naturalists. They lived in accordance with the rhythmic patterns of the seasons: Heaven and Earth, moon, sun and stars. They aspired to follow the way of the ancient times, choosing not to lead excessive lifestyles. They, too, lived plainly and and enjoyed long life."
Dr. Ni describes the work of the ancient doctors as redirecting the flow of energy within the patient by altering their emotional or spiritual state through zhu yuo (spiritual Qi-healing):
Chapter 13, Treatment of the Mind and Body
Yellow Emperor Huang Di asked, "I have heard that in ancient times, when the sages treated, all they had to do was employ methods to guide and change the emotional and spiritual state of a person and redirect the energy flow. The sages utilized a method called zhu yuo, prayer, ceremony, and shamanism, which healed all conditions. Today, however, when doctors treat a patient, they use herbs to treat the internal aspect and acupuncture to treat the exterior. Yet some conditions do not respond. Why is this?"
Qi Bo answered, "In ancient times, people lived simply. They hunted, fished, and were with nature all day. When the weather cooled, they became active to fend off the cold. When the weather heated up in the summer, they retreated to cool places. Internally, their emotions were calm and peaceful and they were without excessive desires. Externally, they did not have the stress of today. They lived without greed and desire, close to nature. They maintained jing shen nei suo, or inner peace and concentration of the mind and spirit. This prevented the pathogens from invading. Therefore, they did not need herbs to treat their internal state, nor did they need acupuncture to treat the exterior. When they did contract disease they simply guided properly the emotions and spirit and redirected the energy flow, using the method of zhu yuo (spiritual Qi-healing) to heal the condition.
People today are different. Internally, they are enslaved by their emotions and worries. They work too hard in heavy labor. They do not follow the rhythmic changes of the four seasons and thus become susceptible to the invasion of the thieves or winds. When their zheng/ antipathogenic qi is weak, pathogens invade to destroy the five zang organs, the bones, and the marrow. Externally they are attacked via the sensory organs, the skin, and muscles. Thus mild conditions become severe, and severe conditions turn fatal. At this point, the method of zhu yuo (spiritual Qi-healing) would be insufficient."
Dr. Ni's Neijing mentioned about the necessity of Shen Qi for healing disease:
Chapter 73, Etiology of Disease
"Therefore, when the qi and shen are present and sound, no pathogen can invade a person, even when the cycles of nature are disruptive and plagues are near."
See Three Treassures
Yuan Qi, the primordial original energy in the body was mentioned in the Nei Jing as the key to effective medicine which can be regenerated through Qigong and tonic herbs:
Chapter 77, The Five Failings of Physicians
"The key to effective medicine is to determine the cause and rectify the imbalance of the yuan/original qi of the body. Study the ancient medical classics well. Follow the correct treatment principles and perform your healing with the utmost care and attention. Conduct yourself with the highest virtue and always have compassion toward your patients. In this way you will be outstanding in your cures and never cause malpractice. This is the way of the sage physicians."