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Page 2 - The Dao of Herbs
The Chinese tonic herbs appear to help these fundamental regulatory systems in maintaining optimal functioning and provide increased vitality in carrying out their roles efficiently and accurately. Furthermore, adaptogenic herbs and formulations appear to expand the range of adaptability, thus increasing the amount of stress an individual can sustain before breaking down.
This adaptogenic quality is the basis of the Daoist concept of "radiant health," which is generally defined as "health beyond danger." If one has increased adaptive capacity, it is possible to survive or even thrive under stressful conditions that other: more common, less well-nourished individuals might not.
When we have mastered the principle of yin and yang, we have mastered the art of living.
Jing, Qi and Shen
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 (pronounced "chee") and shen. 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. There are no exact translations for the terms jing, qi and shen into English. They are generally translated, though, as essence, vitality and spirit.
The author's great teacher, Daoist master Sung Jin Park, described 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 steadier the flame, the steadier the light given off; and the greater the flame, the greater the light. Master Park described it like this:
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, glowing 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, 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) and mouth (yin gate), it circulates through the 12 meridians 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.
The First Treasure
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 and is closely associated with our genetic potential and 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.
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, 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 sexual excess (especially in men). Excessive menstrual patterns, pregnancy and childbirth ca' 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).
There are special herbal tonics that fortify jing, that replace spent jing and that build up large reserves for future use.
The Second Treasure
Qi, the second Treasure, is the energy that creates our vitality. Through the constant interaction of yin and yang, the two moving powers of the universe, change is brought into being and life exists. Qi is the activity of yin and yang. All movement, all functioning and all thought is the result of qi. The nature of qi is to move. 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.
Qi tonics increase the amount, and improve the quality, of the energy and blood flowing through our system. This increase in energy and blood results in an overall increase in physical and mental vitality.
The Ling-chih (Reishi), or sacred mushroom of longevity, was important in Daoist beliefs in its ability to tonify jing, qi and shen, the Three Treasures. Illustration from the Ming Dynasty.
The Third Treasure
Shen is the third Treasure. Shen is the guiding spirit, which directs qi. 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. 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 nondiscriminating, nonjudgemental awareness. Shen is expressed as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance.
Even though nature manifests dualistically and cyclically, often obscuring our vision and creating illusion, shen is our higher knowledge that everything is one. 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.
Certain true shen tonics encourage the opening up of shen. There are also shen "stabilizers" which help stabilize our emotions so that shen (our higher self) can rule our lives. The emotions are allowed to play themselves out, but not to dominate our lives and become obsessions or addictions. Shen tonics have been used by the great sages of the Orient to help in their quest for enlightenment and harmony with God, nature and all of mankind.
Tonic herbs can be categorized as jing (yin and/or yang), qi (energy and/or blood) and shen (opening and/or stabilizing) by virtue of which of the Three Treasures they tend to nourish and develop. Applying the principle of the Three Treasures is the highest form of herbalism. In the Orient it is called the Superior Herbalism.
Cultivating the Three Treasures
The Daoist arts put almost immeasurable emphasis on cultivating the Three Treasures. The various techniques for developing, managing, expanding and utilizing the Three Treasures include such arts as qigong (in general), neigong (internal qigong or internal alchemy), meditation, the martial arts, acupressure, tonic diet, and perhaps most powerfully of all, the Superior Herbalism, also known as tonic herbalism, among other techniques. All together, these arts are referred to in the Orient as the Art of Radiant Health.
Ron Teeguarden has been practicing Daoism and a variety of specific Daoist healing arts for over 30 years. Ron has spent many years studying in China and Japan. He studied with the legendary Daoist master Sung Jin Park in the 1970s. Ron co-developed the acupressure technique known as Jin Shin Do and has taught the Daoist healing arts to thousands of people. He wrote the classic book Chinese Tonic Herbs published by Japan Publications in 1985. His most recent book, The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs, published by Warner Books. Ron is the developer of the Dragon Herbs line of herbal products.
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