Shen — the Mind

The article guides you through the definition of Shen, its role for our Mind and Body, as well as the old Daoist teachings of Bai Xin — the Purification of the Heart-Mind. Along with excerpts of old scriptures, you learn why this inner cultivation is so important in Daoism.

Shen — the Mind

The Mind, known as Shen, is primarily associated with the heart, which is viewed not just as a physical organ but as the center of human consciousness and emotion. The character 神 is made up of two radicals: 示 (shì) on the left and 申 (shēn) on the right.

示 (shì) means “altar” or “spirit,” and it represents the physical manifestation of the spirit or gods. The radical can be interpreted as a hand offering a sacrifice on an altar or the flames rising from a burning sacrifice, both of which symbolize communication with the divine.

申 (shēn) means “to express” or “to declare,” and it represents communication or expression. The radical can be interpreted as a person opening their mouth to speak or drawing an arrow to shoot, both of which symbolize the act of conveying a message or intention.

When combined, these two radicals give the character 神 the meaning of spirit or divine essence, as well as the connotation of communication between the spiritual and physical worlds. In Chinese medicine, 神 is used to refer to the Mind, which encompasses both the spiritual and psychological aspects of the human experience. The character can also be used to describe the supernatural, such as gods or ghosts.