Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mind, Body, Spirit - JING, QI, SHEN

One term that often comes back in Martial Arts or Zen is "SHIN".

SHIN as in ZANSHIN, MUSHIN, HEIJO SHIN is usually translated as "Spirit".

In the West, although we very often hear about "Mind, Body, Spirit" we generally consider that Mind and Body are equivalent, that it is the same entity, which somehow would be eternal, by opposition to the Body, which will eventually die.

Chinese Medicine has a different and unique view of mind/body/spirit. According to it humans comprise a triplicity of inter-related aspects called Jing, Qi, and Shen. (Shin in Japanese)

  • We can translate Jing as Essence. This is the physical template of a human being our biology and genetics our physical substance.
  • Qi we can call Function. This is our vital energy, our breathe, our movement. It is an immaterial force that is responsible for metabolic energy and the integrity of our structure.
  • Shen (Shin in Japanese) is best translated here as Mind, our consciousness, awareness, and mental function.

These three aspects of a human being are related and interdependent. Jing and Qi engender mind, and the mind influences Jing and Qi. All three are actually different densities of Qi, Jing being the most dense, and Shen the most rarified. This is an important point. It means that in Chinese Medicine the body/mind is not just a relationship between two different fields that intimately influence one another, (an idea now common in Western alternative medicine), but is in fact two aspects of the same field of qi. This means everything about a human being can be treated by harmonizing the chi.

In Chinese Medicine mind equals Shen, a function that is stored in the heart and has nothing to do with the brain. It is believed that if the heart is well nourished and calm, it makes a comfortable home for the mind which can then remain peaceful, harmonious, and undisturbed.

You may look at the Jing Qi Shen trinity as you would a riding chariot : The Horse is Qi, the Chariot is Jing and the Charioteer Shen.

Next time I'll post about how Chinese Medicine looks at Shin, not as a single entity, but as a juxtaposition of several souls or minds related to different organs.

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