Understanding Mingmen

In seeking to understand Chinese Medicine I am always on the lookout for material that clarifies my thoughts. The concept of mingmen has remained unclear for me, until now.

This text is from the website of http://www.itmonline.org. Hat tip to Subhuti  Dharmananda for his sources of information.

From Chen Shiduo, A Secret Manual from the Stone Chamber (Shishi Milu), ca. 1690:

As has already laid out in detail in the Nanjing, mingmen is the master of the twelve channel networks. But even though many texts have since been written about this subject, the quintessence (most typical example) of mingmen still remains in the dark. Therefore I chose to bring up this topic one more time.

It is always said that mingmen is the master of the twelve channel networks. Now, what kind of master is it exactly and what does it master?

Let me put it this way: if there is no fire inside us, we cannot exist. This fire must be there first so that the twelve channel networks can be imbued with the igniting spark of transformation. mingmen, therefore, is a type of prenatal fire.

So mingmen is a type prenatal, or pre-heaven fire.

Chinese Medicine and the I Ching share the same root.

The eight trigrams can be arranged in two ways: pre-heaven and post-heaven.

Six trigrams are born from the Qian heaven and Kun earth trigrams.    

Qian heaven consists of three solid yang lines. Yang is the principle of light and the heavenly, so it has to be represented in abundance in the trigram of Heaven.

It’s the ultimate yang.

Kun earth consists of three broken yin lines. Yin stands for earth, dark, and cold. The trigram represents the receptive, since that is traditionally seen as the role of earth in relation to heaven. It also represents the field on which is grown what we need to survive. 

It’s the ultimate yin.

The Classic of Changes, Qian heaven trigram and the Kun earth trigram gave birth to six offspring.

The three male offspring, Zhen thunder, Kan water, Gen mountain.

The three female offspring, Sun wind, Li flame, Dui lake.

True Transmission of Medical Principals, Of Qian and Kun’s six children, the youngest and the oldest are all imbued with biases of Qian and Kun. Only the middle male and female have received their natural disposition from Qian and Kun. People receive the cardinal qi of their original nature from heaven and earth and thereby come to life. Kan and Li therefore act as the root of establishing life.

Kan water and Li flame are able to act as the root of establishing life.

Chen Shiduo calls mingmen a type of prenatal fire. He is referring to the Qian heaven and Li flame types of yang qi.

This fire is immaterial and dwells in water.

The yang line in the trigram Kan water is yang. Yang dwells in water.

On earth, material fire is being quenched by water. Immaterial water, on the contrary, has the ability to generate fire. Therefore, when we say that “fire is being quenched by water” we refer to material water; when we say that “fire is being fueled by water” we refer to immaterial water. And it so happens that immaterial fire can generate immaterial water, meaning that fire is not contained within fire, but within water.

Tai yang is all the yang in the body. Wang Bing, All yang, where magnificent, is tai yang.

Shao yin represents the fire and water of the body and it contains the organs heart and kidneys.

Plain Questions, Heart is the root of life and the seat of shen. It manifests its prosperity on the face, because of its function of keeping blood vessels full. It is located above the diaphragm and is considered yang. Its element is fire. Therefore it is called the tai yang of the yang. In the universal pattern of flow it corresponds to summer.

The kidneys are the storage place of the true yang and the root of all storage in the body. They store jing essence qi of the five zang and six fu organs. They manifest their abundance and health in the head hair. Its effect is to fill the bones and marrow. Being a water element in the lower trunk, the kidneys are considered yin. They are called the shao yin and correspond to the winter energy.

The heart is the element fire and it corresponds to summer.

The kidneys are the element water and it corresponds to winter.

Mingmen fire, is yang fire-a yang that is embedded within two yin. In the microcosmic context of the human body, mingmen is generated first, and only then the heart. Does this fact not illuminate the importance of mingmen? When the heart procures the power of mingmen, consciousness is in command, and we can relate to the outside world. When the liver procures the power of mingmen, it can plan. When the gallbladder procures the power of mingmen, it can make decisions. When the stomach procures the power of mingmen, it can absorb food. When the spleen procures the power of mingmen, it can transport. When the lung procures the power of mingmen, it can fulfill its administrating and regulating functions. When the large intestine procures the power of mingmen, it can pass on the waste. When the small intestine procures the power of mingmen, it can disseminate. When the kidney procures the power of mingmen, it can bring about physical vigor. When the triple burner procures the power of mingmen, it can keep the body’s water pathways unobstructed. When the bladder procures the power of mingmen, it can store. In other words, there is not a single one among the organ networks that does not rely on the mingmen fire for warmth and nourishment.

Mingmen is synonymous with the mandate of each organ. This is illustrated in Chapter 8 of the Yellow Emperor’s Classic.

The heart holds the office of the sovereign and ruler.

The lungs hold the office of chancellor and mentor.

The liver holds the office of general.

The gall bladder holds the office of centered righteousness.

The pericardium holds the office of minister and envoy.

The spleen and stomach holds the office of the granaries.

The large intestine holds the office of transmitting along the way.

The small intestine holds the office of receiving sacrifices.

The kidneys holds the office of making strong.

The san jiao holds the office of clearing the canals.

The urinary bladder holds the office of regional rectifier. 

This type of fire should be tonified rather than purged. This is done by tonifying fire within water, and especially by tonifying water within fire. In this fashion, fire can be fueled by water and at the same time be stored within water. If we just use cold or cool herbs to attack the mingmen fire, it will become weak, and how could it then nourish the twelve channel networks? This is what is really meant by the Neijing statement ‘when the master is dim, the twelve officials are all in a state of crisis.’ Doesn’t that strongly emphasize the importance of mingmen?

Chapter 8 Yellow Emperor’s Classic

However, the decision making is the kings job. If the spirit is clear, all functions of the other organs will be normal. It is in this way that one’s life is preserved and perpetuated, just as a country becomes prosperous when all its people are fulfilling their duties.

If the spirit is disturbed and unclear, the other organs will not function properly. This creates damage. The pathways and roads along which the qi flows will become blocked and health will suffer. The citizens of the kingdom will also suffer.

Mingmen is the prenatal yang of heaven, the postnatal fire, the yang spirit brightness, the spirit of each individual organ. Mingmen is all the yang qi in the body. It is the heart fire and kidney water interacting that produce the rising and falling, entering and exiting of the body’s transformation of qi.

Published by Paul Freedman

Herbal Nerd

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