In the first post of this series, I said there are two points of departure which distinguish this Taoist path to self-improvement from more ‘secular’ approaches. The first of these, discussed above, is an understanding that the process is, in fact, one of transcending the egoic self, rather than improving it. The second is an understanding that, for all this talk of ‘improvement’ and ‘growth’, none of it is ultimately necessary. Whatever Reality may be, every reality is also Reality. We are in no sense ‘lost’, and therefore we need not do, become or be anything other than what we are.
We are not redeeming ourselves. ‘Tao’ is without distinctions and whatever death may mean, it does not sort out beings according to merit. All is well. There are no conditions to meet. And all things are equal. And this is why Seng-ts’an tells us, “To live in this Realization is not to worry about perfection or non-perfection.” It is in this wonderful freedom that we make this pilgrimage.
This by no means leads to a life of moral depravity or complacency, as some naysayers might imagine, but in fact provides the very impetus for the work of personal growth. It is because the immense burden of guilt and fear has been lifted that we are enabled to grow. I am convinced that affirmation and acceptance are two of the most transformative forces in the world. It is because I am affirmed in my totality that I am motivated and enabled to more fully realize in my conscious and behavioral life the ramifications of what that means.
A disharmonious attitude may be as much an expression of Reality as a harmonious one, but this does not mean that the latter cannot have a greater value for me. Happiness and peace, however temporal, are a worthy goal. So I unashamedly declare myself as on a path of self-improvement.
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