These two lines state that the highest and best medicine is comprised of three parts: Jing (精), Qi (气), and Shen (神); all of which are contained within the human body. Jing can be loosely translated as essence; Qi can be loosely translated as energy or vital energy; and Shen can be loosely translated as spirit. In order for us to be healthy, strong and balanced individuals it is essential that we learn the practice which enables us to cultivate these three vitalities in our bodies. Sometimes in our practice of meditation we feel nothing, only that we are sitting for a long period of time. However, the Yu Huang Xin Yin Miao Jing tells us that this is normal and merely the first step in our meditation practice, and with continued and devoted practice, as the temperament and heart begin to calm and the mind races less, we begin to experience new feeling.
Because Daoist cultivation requires a disciplined and devoted practice, it is essential that we follow the natural laws of Daoist cultivation in order to advance and progress. If we are always wasting our energies (both physically and mentally), then we will never be able to progress in our practice. If we are devoted to our practice and take our training seriously, then we will bear the fruits of our efforts.
Jing, Qi, and Shen are all interconnected in our practice of meditation. We have to make sure in strengthening and cultivating the three treasures in our bodies that we avoid allowing ourselves to waste these energies. This should not be understood as merely physical wasting and spending. One of the greatest ways in which we waste our bodily energies is through our emotions. If our emotions are in a constant flux or imbalance, a great amount of energy is being spent, as opposed to being retained and stored, and thus imbalance is created. Not only are the Jing, Qi, and Shen in our bodies interrelated, but our physical bodies and our emotions are also interrelated. Each of the 5 organs correlates to each of the 5 emotions. We can see from this that it is not only important to have a healthy and balanced body, but also a healthy and balanced mind. If we want to improve our Jing, Qi and Shen, then we must improve our bodily health as well as our mental and emotional balance.
It is only by our constant devoted practice that we can continue to cultivate the three treasures in our bodies and enjoy the wonderful benefits of that cultivation. As our cultivation and practice grow we can begin to understand more and advance deeper into our experience of Dao, and when we understand our practice more deeply and can learn to abide by the natural laws of our practice we can learn to truly enjoy the path that we are on. But we must make sure that we are practicing correctly.
Something to note in our reading of the Yu Huang Xin Yin Miao Jing is the use of specific amounts of time in attaining certain accomplishments in practice, such as '100 days' or '12 years.' It is important to clarify that these references to time are not to be understood as specific lengths. Often times in modern interpretations of ancient Daoist writings and transmissions symbolic language is inaccurately translated using literal understanding of figurative and representative language. As a result in contemporary society this has led to a great misunderstanding of the true depth of practice, leading to a widely held belief that Daoist practice is quick and easy.
The text states ‘百日功灵 - Bǎi rì gōng líng' , which can be translated as 'one hundred days and the technique is established'. This line is in reference to the opening of 小周天 (xiǎo zhōu tiān), 'the microcosmic orbit'. Many translators of this passage have translated literally without first referencing the representative quality that the number '100' has in Chinese language and culture. For example, when referring to 'everything' in Chinese language, often times it is written as 'the one hundred things' or 'the 10,000 things'; a relatively small number which represents a far more vast amount. Another point that is ignored is that opening the microcosmic orbit in this amount of time is an impossibility in internal practice, especially for people with no background or foundation in Daoist practice. A more realistic reference point for opening the microcosmic orbit is counted in years. As we can see from this, the 'one hundred days' as written in this text is not meant to be taken as a literal marker for how long it takes in order to open the microcosmic orbit, but is merely stating that it takes much work and time. If neidan practice were as easy as many modern translations make it out to be, everyone on earth would already be immortal.
Misinterpretation of lines such as 百日功灵 is one of the reasons why many people confuse 'nei dan' (internal alchemy) practice as something that is both quick and easy. Prior to this line is another line that references time: 頃刻而成 (Qīng kè ér chéng) – 'Instantly you have success.” The meaning of this line is that although it may take many years to understand Daoism and your personal practice, when you do, it feels like an instant. There is another Chinese phrase that is used in order to help those studying and practicing Daoism: 道不言寿 (Dào bù yán shòu). The meaning of this phrase is that 'Dao does not discuss time or age.'
In order for us to understand that you can 'instantly have success' with our practice we must understand that 'Dao does not discuss time or age.' When we understand this, we can then understand why 10 or 20 years is only an instant. Knowledge is only gained through great experience and its processes. Dao is endless and timeless. Our conceptions of time in relation to Dao is merely an instant. If we are really interested in practicing Daoism, we must understand that it takes great devotion, discipline, and continued practice. If we understand this, then it is much easier for us to connect with Dao and excel in our practice and cultivation. These are natural laws of Daoism and Daoist practice.