shénmíng (神明)

can be literally rendered as “the spirit’s illumination.” However, I’ve chosen to leave it in pīnyīn (拼音) to emphasize how different this idea is from various mystical interpretations of “spirit,” based on Christian or other western ideas. In classical Chinese thought, shén (神) is the animation and direction one receives from heaven (tiān (天)), which can also refer simply to the sky. The illumination (or brightness) of the shén (神) refers to its capacity for pure awareness.

Yet, in classical Chinese thought, shénmíng () is considered a natural state of being rather than a mystical one. However, most people need to devote considerable attention to uncover and cultivate shénmíng (), by penetrating through (tōng (通)) the density and opacity of their conditioned consciousness. One may reach increasing depths of shénmíng (), by paying very careful attention in observing phenomena, and quieting the mind to be receptive (yīn (陰)), rather than actively projecting (yáng (陽)) one’s point of view onto circumstances and events. So, shénmíng () is the ‘enlightened’ state of mind, which transcends an individual’s habitually projected point of view. Cultivating shénmíng () allows one to see through his or her habituated interpretations to experience the phenomena that actually occur. Shénmíng () is the source of an individual’s creativity, inspiration, insights and clarity.

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