What is Shen?
Shen is one of the Three Treasures. It is the third Treasure. Shen is our spirit. 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. 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, etc. Shen is our higher knowledge that everything is one, even though nature manifests dualistically and cyclically, often obscuring our vision and creating illusion.
Shen is the spark of divinity within each human being. Shen is the spiritual radiance of a human being and is the ultimate and most refined level of energetics in the universe. It is associated with our awareness of and oneness with the Universal Infinite Being, and is manifested in our own godliness. 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-judgmental awareness. Shen manifests not only as our love and compassion, but also as our mental and intuitive energy.
Zhuang Zi, one of China’s greatest Taoist sages, once wrote:
“When the shoe fits the foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits the belly is forgotten
And when the heart (Shen) is right,
For and against are forgotten.”
This quote expresses quite exquisitely an aspect of Chinese Taoist philosophy that is absolutely central to the attainment of health. Very simply, Zhuang Zi is saying that one cannot attain high spiritual levels until one has learned the art of balance. One who seeks true happiness must achieve balance in their lives. Imbalance is the source of stress that distracts Shen’s attention away from its higher path. But when there is balance and harmony in one’s life then “the heart,” or Shen, has an opportunity to develop and attain a state of enlightened all-embracing acceptance of things as they really are, transcending the notions of good and bad, right and wrong, for and against.
It is taught in Chinese philosophy that Shen naturally rules our lives, but if we lose our emotional balance (which we all do), then the ego and the various emotions compete for dominance and Shen withdraws and becomes hidden. Immoderate behavior is brought about by a lack of understanding of the laws of nature which promotes selfishness. We develop addictions to particular egoistic attitudes and to the emotions that help manifest our egoistic goals. Anger, greed, fear, worry, sorrow, frustration, uncontrolled and excessive worldly joy, the perpetual seeking of pleasure in the things of this world of relativity and illusion, are all examples of the types of mental states that force Shen into hiding, often for the duration of one’s life. If Shen is weak, then the person becomes ruled by emotions and passions and the true desires of Shen are covered by the demands of the body and of the lower self. The person constantly craves excitement and novelty but these things do not satisfy the heart and the person is frustrated, lonely and depressed.
An ancient classic says:
“If the master is brilliant, his subjects are peaceful.
If the master is disturbed, then his twelve officials are in danger.”
The “master” is Shen, and the “twelve officials” are the twelve organ systems of the body.
The great spiritual paths of the world have all attempted to teach their followers that it is necessary to temper excessive desires and imbalanced emotions so that Shen can naturally regain its position as the ruler of our lives. The Chinese Taoists have long practiced a spiritual path that emphasizes living in harmony with Nature. They have stressed the idea of living a balanced life that flows with the seasons and various cycles of life, constantly adapting to each situation so as to minimize stress and allow Shen to rule unhindered by excessive desire. Living so closely with nature, the Taoist masters have realized that the body, mind and environment were one and that these need to be cultivated in such a way as to allow the process of spiritual growth to proceed most fluidly.
In fact all activities are directed by Shen: thinking, seeing, speaking, hearing, exercising, working and loving are all different functions of Shen. In health, these activities are performed pleasantly and rhythmically, but in sickness we see changes in all the human functions and activities, and there is a lack of mental clarity and actions become disturbed. Jing and Qi support Shen, and if they are wasted (dissipated) Shen will suffer. If Shen suffers, it becomes shaken and withdraws. When the emotions are not subordinate to Shen, they strive for dominance amongst themselves and this struggle eventually affects the organs and disharmony and disease follows. This is why moderation is regarded in the Orient as the supreme way of health, happiness and longevity. Immoderate behavior is brought about by a lack of understanding of the laws of nature which promotes selfishness.
Traditional Function: Stabilizes and tonifies Shen*
Who can use it? Anyone
Specifications: 2 fl. oz.
Chinese Asparagus root, Longan fruit, Albizzia julibrissin flower, Spirit Poria sclerotium, Wild Reishi fruiting body, Tibetan Rhodiola root, Polygala root, American Red Ginseng root, Luo Han Guo fruit
Other Ingredients: water, alcohol
Usage: 3-12 droppers per day or as directed by your health care practitioner