Ayurveda and The Three Treasures, Pt. 1: Jing
What Is Jing?
The most concise definition of the Chinese word "Jing" is "Essence". Although "essence" epitomizes the meaning of Jing, the term itself refers to much more than a single substance.
Unlike Indian medical texts, traditional Chinese medicine uses single words to describe a group of processes. For example, when the Chinese refer to the "kidneys" they are not only referring to the physical organ that Western medicine calls the kidneys. For the Chinese, "kidney" is the two kidneys, the bladder, the endocrine system, and the reproductive system.
Similarly, Jing variously refers to vital reproductive tissue, reproductive fluid (semen or ovum), and the essence of reproductive fluid.
Jing as Soma
In the context of Ayurveda, Jing refers to the substratum of soma (or lunar energy), from its grossest manifestation to its most refined essence. Jing initially refers to soma--the cooling, nourishing, growth-giving component of prana that pervades our body-mind. The gross manifestation of soma is Kapha dosha, the energy that holds together and lubricates our body.
Jing as Shukra
The bodily tissue that is most related to Kapha dosha is the reproductive tissue, or shukra dhatu. Shukra is the seventh dhatu, the essence of all six tissues that precede it (plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, and marrow). In men, it is represented by the vital reproductive fluid (or semen) and in women, the ovum. Taoist and Indian Tantric traditions speak in great detail about the conservation of the sexual essence through either sexual restraint or through conducting the vital fluid up the spinal line to nourish the higher brain centers. This is because in conventional orgasm, the vital fluid is expelled from the body, and we literally lose vitality (or shukra / Jing).
Jing as Ojas
The loss of reproductive fluid is significant because the quantity of the reproductive tissue determines the quantity of the most refined substance in the body: Ojas. If we do not have much shukra (or we expel too much shukra) then we become de-vitalized, and the most essential substance of our vitality is not created in sufficient quantity. This results in a lack of vigor and poor immunity. Note that, when Jing is being discussed, it is primarily shukra or Ojas that is being referred to. However, even if shukra is conserved and of excellent quantity and quality, Jing in the form of Ojas can still be low. This is because the primary cause of depleted Ojas is mental anxiety and worry--moreso than any physical cause.
Prenatal and Postnatal Jing / Param Ojas and Apar Ojas
In Ayurveda, there are two types of Ojas: Param Ojas (supreme Ojas) and Apar Ojas (ordinary Ojas). This directly mirrors the Chinese concept of Prenatal Jing and Postnatal Jing. Param Ojas (or prenatal Jing) is what we are born with. Ayurveda describes that everyone is born with exactly eight drops of Ojas that resides in the heart and functions as a "glue", binding the soul to the heart. Ojas is also the "link" between the inner physiology and the outer world and the connecting factor between all the organs and systems.
The Chinese concept of prenatal Jing is slightly different in that it is considered to be the constitutional vitality inherited from the parents. In Ayurveda, everyone is born with the same amount of Param Ojas. But in the Chinese system, everyone's prenatal Jing is determined by the strength of their parents. Some may have more constitutional vitality than others. In this sense, the Chinese concept of prenatal Jing is similar to the Ayurvedic concept of Prakruti (or original nature). The amount of Jing in someone's Prakruti will depend on how much soma the parents have constitutionally. If the parents are both strong Kapha-dominant types, their child will inherit those genes and energies, and the child will have more prenatal Jing than a child whose parents were both thin Vata-dominant types.
However, similarities between the concept of Param Ojas and Prenatal Jing emerge once more when we consider the role of Apar Ojas (or Postnatal Jing). According to Ayurveda, Apar Ojas is created after birth. It is the Ojas referred to earlier, the essence of all the bodily tissues. Its quantity and quality depends primarily on how much soma is received by an individual, because soma is the raw material for Apar Ojas. If someone naturally receives more soma from the environment (such as Kapha types), they will naturally have more Apar Ojas. They can eat a moderately nourishing diet and still have plenty of Apar Ojas. If someone does not receive much soma from the environment (such as Pitta types), they will need to eat a more nourishing diet that has lots of soma in it in order to have sufficient Apar Ojas. Thus, Apar Ojas depends on both constitutional tendency and food, the main point being that its quantity can be directly affected by the individual (negatively or positively), whereas Param Ojas (or Prenatal Jing) cannot be changed. Apar Ojas / Prenatal Jing are also correlated in both systems with the neurohormones, neurotransmitters, and hormonal system.
We tend to burn through our Apar Ojas / Postnatal Jing through the physical, emotional, and mental activities of life. Nothing depletes Ojas and Jing as readily as stress. The Chinese say that once Postnatal Jing is depleted, one begins to consume the Prenatal Jing--and this becomes life-threatening. Ayurveda also shares this understanding, saying that if even one drop of Param Ojas is lost, then the soul can leave the body.
The Golden Stove and Vibrational Turtle
The Taoists describe the lower navel region (three finger-widths below and two finger-widths behind) to be the reservoir of Jing. This region is called the lower dantien (or "the golden stove").
In the Shaka Vansya Ayurveda lineage, the region is known as the reservoir of soma. In the SVA lineage, it is said that a vibrational turtle resides in the lower navel region. It is the root of the lotus that blossoms in the heart.
The Japanese refer to this region as the "hara". It is also associated with the Svadisthana Chakra in Indian Yoga. My Spiritual Master, Adi Da Samraj, described this region as "the great life-region", "bodily base", and "bodily battery".
Jing and Soma/Shukra/Ojas are core energies that directly affect our health. These subtle essences are a deep subject worthy of great study and most importantly, personal cultivation. Like the two halves of a brain, the Indians and the Chinese have both described something essential to the balanced and rejuvenated physiology. The Chinese beautifully indicate a vast scope in their use of a single word, while Ayurveda shines with its precision. Looking through the lens of both traditions, we can gain a richer understanding and experience of this profound universal wisdom.