The Way to Health: Chinese Medicine and The Natural Laws of the Universe
“True words aren’t eloquent; eloquent words aren’t true. Wise men don’t need to prove their point; men who prove their point aren’t wise…The Tao nourishes by not forcing. By not dominating, the Master leads.” Tao Te Jing, Chapter 81.
The Tao Te Jing is an inspiring guide to living life in a simple, centered manner. Taoist philosophy is one of the main influences within Classical Chinese Medicine.
The first chapter of the Nei Jing Su Wen, the “bible” of Chinese Medicine, is entitled “On Preserving Healthy Human Energy in Ancient Times.” This chapter reads as a discussion between a Taoist medical master and his student, concerning health and disease.
“I am told the people in ancient times could all survive to more than 100 years old, and they appeared to be quite healthy and strong in actions,” says the student to his teacher. “But the people at present time are different: they are not so nimble in actions when they are only 50. What is the reason?”
The teacher answers his student with basic Taoist teachings which are also presented in the Tao Te Jing: the people of modern times have forgotten how to follow the Tao, or the natural way, therefore they get sick and die at an early age.
Being that Chinese Medicine is a holistic system of medicine, the teachings of the Nei Jing Su Wen as well as the Tao Te Jing concern mental as well as physical health; social as well as personal behavior; thinking as well as action. The goal of these two Taoist classics are to illuminate health and disease, and the causes of each.
The main focus for the Taoists is “the primordial qi:” the force where all life emerges from, and eventually returns back to. Some would call this force “nature,” some would call it “God;” others call it “the universe.” The underlying idea is that we all come from a force greater than ourselves which is governed by natural laws, cycles and tendencies. The understanding of health, therefore becomes a search for the “natural way” or “Tao.”
Taoist medicine believes disease occurs when we have deviated from the “natural way.” Restoration of health comes when we return to the “Tao,” or natural flow of the universe. At the risk of sounding too “new-age,” I use the word “universe.” However, the concept of universal laws are those of physics, a scientific system which studies phenomenon and its governing laws.
Fritjof Capra, in his book The Tao of Physics, likens the Chinese to the Native Americans, who believed in an “ultimate reality which underlies and unifies” all things: a concept that is beginning to be embraced by modern Astrophysics.
The Taoist view is stated nicely by Huai Nan Tzu, a philosopher of the 2nd Century B.C. “He who conforms to the course of the Tao, following the natural processes of Heaven and Earth, finds it easy to manage the whole world.”
From the Taoist viewpoint, an entire medical system was developed in China, which has lasted more than 2000 years.
Chinese Medicine was also influenced by the Confucians, who advocated looking toward antiquity for answers to modern problems. This should sound familiar to use, as we Americans also subscribe to this way of thinking. Our nation was created by men who looked to ancient Greek philosophy of government when forming the Constitution.
The Classical tradition of Chinese Medicine teaches, treats and heals through wisdom presented by the great sages of the past: the Taoist focus on what’s most basic: the laws of nature.
We can experience the laws of nature in our daily lives. We need not devote our lives to deep contemplation as sages. Nor do we need to be astrophysicists. We can observe the seasons, as well as the behavior of animals and plants: another traditionally “American” way of looking at the world, as inspired by Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.
Yet, it is our ego and desire which can get in the way of following the Tao. We as humans are the only creatures on Earth with a will to deviate from the laws of nature. Our desire pulls us away from what is natural to us, causing us great physical and mental suffering. This tendency seems natural to us as humans. However, we also have the capacity to learn and change: attributes which are also unique to humans.
Chinese Medicine is a way to develop our understanding of the “natural way.” The Nei Jing Su Wen contains lessons about the formation of disease when we deviate from the natural way. It also presents methods to regain health and eliminate disease.
Chinese Medicine is the application of Taoist teachings on health, through acupuncture and herbal medicine. Both the Tao Te Jing, as well as the Nei Jing Su Wen are dedicated to the benefit of all humanity through teaching the natural way of health.
As the Tao Te Jing teaches, one may dissipate his energy through trying to force understanding; using eloquent words to “prove” the validity of a system of thought. However, the sages teach: something true requires none of this effort.
My intention is not to “prove” the validity of Chinese Medicine as a system, but to share what I have experienced to be true. Inspired by the Taoist sages of the past, I wish to share the wisdom of a medicine that has illuminated my life, led me back to health, and continues to enrich my life, so we may all “find it easy to manage the whole world.”