Our life on earth is a momentary process compared to our spiritual existence, just as the master 莊子 Zhuāng zi says, we must look after every moment of our presence, conserve the original vital essence 元精yuán jīng that was given to us, just like the butcher takes care of his knife while cutting an ox, he doesn’t wear out the edge while cutting the tendons or the joints, preserves his tool, by doing so he diminishes the resources necessary to achieve its goal. Likewise, one must take care of his own body, being responsible for the diseases that afflict our organism, not risking or exceeding in vain processes that can only undermine the will to live.
On the other hand, the spiritual process is unlimited, one has to obtain the understanding and it is a very tedious work, the enlightenment to understand the origin is not obtained overnight, the road is long and the tasks complicated. Usually many material lives, several celestial existences are needed to meet the requirements from heaven. There is no remedy or pill that allows us to live eternally to understand our true function. It is a personal work that leads us to overcome obstacles and conquer our true understanding.
成吉思汗Chéngjísīhán (Genghis Khan) invited 丘處機Qiū chù jī to pay him a visit because he had heard of his great work. He imagined that the priest was like an immortal, due to his famous practices in the mountains and his extraordinary ceremonies to make it rain, heal people … and one of the requests he made to the priest 丘處機Qiū chù jī was, how could he obtain the method to achieve immortality.
Then 丘處機Qiū chù jī replied: “只有衛生之道，並無長生之藥。” zhǐyǒu wèishēng zhī dào, bìng wú chángshēng zhī yào: only the health of the Dào exists, there is no remedy for longevity. 丘處機 Qiū chù jī taught the Mongol ruler that only our life’s practice on this earth can help us obtain good health, this practice must be in harmony with nature, if we deepen our observation we can aspire to understand the performance of our organism, understanding it, we glimpse the way to the origin.
“To demand ourselves daily is to achieve virtue”, virtue is the quality to consolidate this search, it’s the attitude of human beings in front of the process he has chosen to live, a way of living that make him understanding his origin, his true essence.
Living or the concept of life are very complex events to define, mysterious realities; According to the ancients, we receive the act of being, from Dào itself, who gift us with our life 命mìng and our nature 性xìng. This life impulse, a manifestation of the original spirit 元神yuán shén, unites with substance to generate the different kingdoms: animal, vegetable and mineral.
The sky, is broad term which defines the space where the origin is located, provides treasures to our universe, the sky, envelope of our cosmos, receives three treasures: the sun, the moon and the stars; The earth, the support for our evolution, receives three treasures: the water, the fire and the wind; Man, base for the spirit, receives three treasures: 精 jīng: vital essence, 氣 qì: energy, 神 shén: spirit. Traditional Daoist medicine considers that these three factors and their transformations define the foundation of the movement and the cause of the life phenomenon. If human beings understand their position between heaven and earth, stimulates the transformation of these factors, they will be able to prolong their life and cultivate virtue. The spirit drives the continuous transformation of the body, the body maintains and materializes this spiritual process. In traditional Daoist medicine these two concepts are part of the fundamental theories, so there can’t be a vision based entirely on the materialistic physiology of the Western concept, nor can it be an exclusively spiritualistic representation; The vital principle in humans is based on physical and physiological expressions as well as mental and psychological processes. The spirit has its origin in the void, therefore it has no form, no sound, no smell or color, but it is expressed in all the body’s functions. These manifestations are achieved through the production of five cohesive materials, products related to the anatomical structures that allow, literally, the attachment of the spirit to the body.
- 神 shén: related to the heart, coordinates the mind and commands the functions of the human being. It is the substance of cohesion between the breath of life (divine spirit) and the organization processes. Responsible for the personality coherence, directly related with the intelligence to adapt to all situations, to the different changes of the environment. It incarnates the innate wisdom that allows you to use the internal and external energies to obtain the best results of the body.
In the medical context, it takes the connotation related to vitality, health, energy. For example: It is referred as the presence of the spirit, with good life functions, but if there is any disease in the organic structures the cohesion decays and the vital functions change; they become slower, the language loses its sharpness, mental processes are reduced, the sense organs cease to function correctly. Consequently, the spirit is intimately related to the vital essence, the energy and the anatomical structures脏腑 zàng fŭ.
- 魂hún: related to the liver, coordinates the generation and commands the imaginary vision or the unconscious vision, also called visionary soul. It also corresponds to the activity field of consciousness; therefore, it is responsible for the impulsive energy to achieve an action which happens in a present moment or in the imaginary. Incarnates the hereditary instinct, the innate response to any stimulus, the passionate movement. In a medical context, the hún is related to the desires, the enthusiasm, its harmonized presence allows us to make good decisions. But if it presence diminishes then a difficulty in falling asleep appears, violent dreams, nightmares, the imaginary is out of control and there isn’t an organized structure for projects which become excessive or incoherent. It represents the yáng, volatile part of the spirit, as represented in the document 魂魄圖hún pò tú: diagram of the hún pò.
陽 神 曰 魂；陰 神 曰 魄。
Yáng shén yuē hún yīn shén yuē pò
The yáng part of the spirit is called hún; The yin part of the spirit is called pò.
It is also mentioned in the《五行大義》wǔxíng dàyì book: important elements of the five
movements, written by 蕭吉Xiāo jí (Suí隋 dynasty 581-618) which speaks of three hún and
seven pò but in a different context.
A great explanation of hún and pò can be found in the book 《太上除三屍九蟲保生經》tài
shàng chú sān shī jiǔ chóng bǎoshēng jīng: sacred book of the top ascended to eliminate the three spirits and the nine parasites to protect the generation.
- 魄pò: related to the lung, coordinates the unconditional reflex nervous system, also called “physical soul”, by some western sinologists. It is responsible for the corporal limit, therefore the skin. It directly relates to the body consciousness to react at the aggressions of the outside world.
In survival situations, it helps to determine actions or reactions without having to use the mind. Intervening in all processes related to the primitive instinct, breathing, swallowing, sweating…
The pò is related to the yīn part, therefore it has a close relation with blood, whereas the hún is related to the energy. In a medical context, an imbalance in the pò presence causes a lack of control in the body defenses, a lack of interest in generating actions can lead to depression.
- 志zhì: related to the kidney, coordinates the will, the strength to perform the life processes, determines the intention of being. Its responsibility is to relate the life impulse, called spirit with life function, in other words, maintaining enough fuel to achieve the predestined mission. It is a cohesive matter indispensable to be able to carry out an action without getting distracted by any difficulties. It determines our own authority, our security against the decisions and actions that we undertake. In physiology, we can compare this process with the adrenaline discharge that keeps us on guard. In a medical context, the diminution of this production causes fear, the person demonstrates a lot of indecision in his actions, a great lack of security and let down in face of adversity. On the contrary, having a lot of will can lead to authoritarianism, recklessness, intransigence.
- 意思 yìsi: related to the spleen (blood control in the digestive system), coordinating the material part of our mental, called consciousness. Corresponding to the space-link where the experience of the later heaven is preserved. The nutrients picked up by the spleen allow to materialize what has been learned and register it to be reused in a timely manner. The organization of intellectual and physical experiences needs a great supply of blood to store them in our brain, hence memory depends directly on the production of this cohesive matter. An imbalance in the consciousness functions and that person becomes confused, obsessed, has an altered thinking. In a medical context, a malfunction of the digestive system causes poor memory, a great difficulty to materialize the projects.
Summarizing, the production and preservation of the cohesive materials of each major anatomical structure defines the relation to the original spirit of each being and in the same way, each branch of the spirit imprints its fate in the physiology of each anatomical structure.
For example, although the brain plays a fundamental role in the processes of the psyche, it is the heart that directs these activities. Thanks to the blood of the heart, the central nervous system develops its functions and redistributes the orders issued by the heart to keep the organism in harmony.
It can be said that the heart is a material structure that produces a substance which controls one of the specific expressions “the spirit” 神 shén (cohesive material). But likewise, it is the spirit of being, a fraction of the original spirit, defining its destiny and wanting to fulfill its mission, stimulates the different cohesion substances to create a specific physiological reaction in the main anatomical structures and induce the will to live. On the other hand, the three treasures of the human body correspond to the inheritance the origin gave to humanity. In the sacred book 三洞經sān dòng jīng: the book of the three caves comes a description of the cosmos eras before ours. The cosmos was governed in succession by the three treasures: 天寶Tiān bāo, 孁寶Líng băo, 神寶 Shén băo. These three treasures represent the evolution of the original energy 炁 qì and the manifestation of the three primordial energies, originated in the three caves which will give birth to the three pure beings 三清sān qīng. From this fundamental triad, the entire universe was created (the ten thousand beings). The three treasures of the human body are the representation of these three original principles of being, printed in the three cinnabar fields三丹田sān dān tián, this allows a communication with the primordial message. Traditional Daoist medicine considers them to be the foundations of change and the cause for the life phenomenon.
精jīng: vital essence, quality grain, a seed that allows development according to the original message. In the human beings it corresponds to the reproductive energy, the gametes, final product of the reproduction that contains the genetic message of the ancestors. There are two aspects:
Innate vital essence: it is the result of the union between two vital essences in the former heaven of each being, the genetic message of the parents that will induce the vital processes, in the world of the later heaven. It is the origin of the transformation phenomena, allowing the formation and individualization of everyone.
Acquired vital essence: it occurs throughout the rest of life due to metabolic transformations which depend on energy. It materializes in the body substrates and defines the physical form.
氣qì: energy, origin of movement and the universe formation. The original energy 元气yuánqì or炁qì is the first manifestation of the void, it generates all other energies, creating the movement of all things which allows to generate matter. It can also be interpreted by breath, gas, emanation. In a medical context, it is related to the physiology and its different processes such as: transformation, movement, communication. It also relates to body elements such as blood, body fluids, body heat, blood pressure …
神 shén: spirit, deity, supernatural. In the broad sense of the word it refers to the external manifestations of life. In the narrow sense of the word it refers to the mental faculties: consciousness, memory, thoughts, reflection, intellectual processes. In fact, for traditional Daoist medicine it corresponds to all the manifestations of vital activities. It is responsible for the consistency in personality.
In the sacred book 《黄帝内经》Huángdì nèijīng, volumen《素问》sù wèn, chapter 30 移精變氣論 yí jīng biàn qì lùn: theory of the vital essence transformation into energy.
得 神 者 昌 。 失 神 者 亡,
Dé shén zhě chāng shī shén zhě wáng,
Obtaining the spirit then there is prosperity (strong vital signs indicate that true energy is strong and undamaged which makes it possible to think that the prognosis of a pathology is good). The loss of spirit then there is collapse (if the vital signs of a person are dulled or diminished, and loss of vitality then the true energy has been damage and the prognosis is bad, it can even lead to death).
In traditional Daoist medicine it is said that: “神形合一” shén xíng hé yī: the body and the spirit form one (they hold together). The form manifests itself through the spirit, if the body is strong then the spirit can develop, it becomes vigorous. Besides, the spirit originates most of the manifestations linked to the vital activities, especially reflected thorugh the eyes, the body complexion, the face expressions, in the corporal movements and the general behavior of the individual. Therefore having spirit or not is a form of diagnosis.
In the sacred book 《黄帝内经》Huángdì nèijīng, volumen《灵枢》Líng shū, chapter 71 邪客 xiékè: the wicked guest.
心 者， 五 脏 六 腑 之 大 主 也，精 神 之 所 舍 也，其 脏 坚 固， 邪 弗 能 容 也。
Xīn zhě wŭ zàng liù fŭ zhī dà zhŭ yě jīng shén zhī suŏ shě yĕ qí zàng jiānggù xié fú néng róng yě
The heart is the great governor of the five major anatomical structures and the six complementary anatomical structures (refered to as the emperor 帝王), it is the residence of vitality, its main anatomical structure is robust, the pathogen can not lodge here (stay in its interior).
容 之 则 伤 心， 心 伤 则 神 去， 神 去 则 死 矣。
Róng zhī zé shāng xīn xīn shāng zé shén qù shén qù zé sĭ yĭ
If the pathogen enters then the heart is injured, if the heart is injured then the spirit leaves, if the spirit goes away then the person dies.
These three treasures are interrelated and enable the activities of human life. All three form a relationship of interdependence and are mutually transforming. Therefore it is said:
流 行 為 氣，凝 聚 為 精， 妙 用 為 神
Liú xíng wéi qì níng jù wèi jīng miào yòng wèi shén
The energy gives fluidity, the vital essence condenses, the spirit does wonders.
In conclusion, it can be said that the spiritual part of our being, the divine intention to be, needs to materialize on earth to understand its own evolution. It takes several or many reincarnations, according to the intention each one of us has to grow, to achieve this aim. In the path of awareness, many get lost, letting themselves be deceived by the illusion of living, the desires, the mirages set by the material environment. The artifice is so great that most of the beings believe in this reality, they let themselves be enveloped by the magic of existence, they can even get sick to keep this zone of comfort. So, if someone wishes to attain understanding, to glimpse at the continuity of spiritual existence, he must protect his carnal sheath that allows him to reside in this world. It is through the relation of consciousness-unconsciousness, reality-dream, life-death that one can draw the boundaries between what we really are and the illusion in which we live. Daoist philosophy offers the path of enlightenment, the difficult trail that leads us to cultivate our existence to increase our virtue. In addition, the ancient practitioners of Dào 修道xiū Dào were very knowledgeable on the functioning of the organism, that’s why the ancient proverb said “Nine Out of ten Daoist priests were Daoist physicians”. Undoubtedly one can rely on the techniques of self-contemplation and self-cultivation of Daoist schools recognized by the Chinese Daoist Association and in future by the World Federation of Daoism (WFT).