San Bao

My Qigong teachers in China talked with me one time about a perspective on the 三寶 San Bao or three treasures. They explained that there were several, perhaps uncountable, lists of things that were San Bao. They said the San Bao of philosophy are Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. The San Bao of existence are 地人天 Earth, man and Heaven. They then explained that the San Bao of the self were 精氣神 Jing Qi Shen/essence qi and spirit. They drew a diagram with each of the first of the lists at the bottom rising through the others to the top, like this:

佛 天 神

孔 人 氣

道 地 精

They said Daoism relates most to the Earth and its practices are the most focussed on essence. Confucianism is focussed on the world of men and their relationships and so is the most focussed on the cultivation of the Qi between things. Finally Buddhism looks to Heaven and so is most concerned with cultivation of the spirit. They explained that each practice has its place and purpose. They are like the roots trunk and leaves of a tree, none is better or more useful than the other.

That being said they then smiled and explained to me, “Still it is the study of Dao in the natural world which is the basis of all of our practice (not everyone’s practice, the practice that they were teaching me at that time), so first you must cultivate the Jing and never leave it behind for pursuits of the mind. Always carry it forward to provide an earthly grounding upon which your practice stands.”

I received this lesson at Clear Sound Pavilion 情音閣 on 峨眉山 Emei Mountain in 1991. I’m not saying its any kind of standard or truth in Daoist practices, it is simply a lesson I was taught over a cup of tea.

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