In Chinese Medicine, this is not a debate. It is clear in the philosophy of the medicine that life on earth, human beings included, is the fusion of the energies of Heaven and Earth. In our medical text, the Yellow Emperor Internal Classics - Basic Questions (Huang Di Nei Jing - Su Wen), written probably around the 2nd century BCE, it states in Chapter 25, "A human being results from the Qi of Heaven and Earth...The union of the Qi of Heaven and Earth is called human being."
From this union comes Jing or Life Essence, which is the blending of energies from the mother and father to create the individual, and the nourishment to sustain life. When we speak of Jing, we refer to both Pre-Heaven and Post-Heaven Essences; Pre-Heaven being that which we receive from our parents and Post-Heaven being that which is derived from air, food as well as fluids, as we are born into the world. One may conclude that Pre-Heaven Jing alludes to genetic information and Post-Heaven Jing the influence of the environment. Already at the point when a child is born onto the earth, takes its first breath and begins suckling (or not) at the breast of her/his mother, the individual is being shaped by both her/his genetic inheritance, the nourishment provided from the environment and his caregiver, as well as the process in which s/he enters into the world. Sounds complex, doesn't it? I believe it is, as within these first few minutes of life, we enter into the world that is already in existence, carrying the hopes and dreams of our ancestors as well as ourselves as individuals, and the process in which we are birthed into the world shapes what comes later.
Chinese Medicine believes that we are both formed by our genetic inheritance and by our environment that we live in. The manner in which we behave and live in the world is determined by both the body (physical, emotional and mental) we have in this lifetime and the environment that we grow up in, whether it be the people around us or the climate that we live in. It is good to understand how we came to be, why we are here, but I believe what is more important is what we do in this lifetime. How we live with our Jing affect all around us, people, other living beings and our environment. Here is a view from a Chinese medical scholar, Giovanni Macioca in his book "Foundations of Chinese Medicine" on Pre-Heaven Jing:
"This Pre-Heaven Essence is what determines each person constitutional make-up, strength and vitality. It is what makes each individual unique... Some say this Essence is 'fixed' in quantity and quality. However, it can be positively affected, even if not quantitively increased. The best way to affect one's Pre-Heaven Essence is by striving for balance in one's life activities: balance between work and rest, restraint in sexual activity and balanced diet...A direct way to positively influence one's Essence is through breathing exercises and such exercises as Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong."
So, the Chinese medical answer to the debate of "Nature vs. Nurture" is that it is both "Nature and Nurture." It is Nature that gives us a form and a path, and Nurture gives us the means to walk the path. We are both of these and more, we have the free will to choose how we live, and what we do in our lifetime.
Photo by Aron H.