moraldilemma

Good, growth, positivity, love, happiness...

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Been stuck on this for a while. As far as I can tell, light can't exist without darkness. Life comes with death, awareness with delusion. So why focus on the positive if the negative will always be there? I asked a Zen master this. Why vow to free all beings if suffering will always be around no matter what we do? He said it's more of a way to behave and do what we can to help the world while we're here. It makes sense- something to hope for.

 

I ask this here because yin and yang are Daoist ideas (universal law in my opinion, though I probably don't understand it). I get that doing good feels good and it's good for you. But I can't shake this irrational fear that doing good might cause an equal amount of bad. (*Edit: For example modern medicine is considered to be good in general, as it saves millions and millions of lives. But it's one of the causes of overpopulation, which is contributing to climate change which is bad.) Would like some experienced Daoist perspective on this.

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Edited by moraldilemma

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Answer this please, why do you think you need to have no darkness ensue, in order to have a reason to do anything?

(which is implied in your OP)

Edited by Stosh

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51 minutes ago, moraldilemma said:

light can't exist without darkness

 

There is no darkness. There is only shadow. Light can exist without shadow, but only when there is nothing to shine upon. As soon as there is something to shine upon then shadow is born.

 

A good question to ask is why cling to shadow? Why fear the light?

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I think it’s a good question.

 

I’ve been pondering it myself for several years now.

 

There are several ways of ‘doing good’. 

 

One is simply doing good because it’s the easiest default... society is set up so that we generally tend to be good - otherwise we will be shunned from society. So you do good because to do bad would be harder, more risky, would look bad to people etc. This is doing good for benefit to oneself. Or doing good from a place of weakness.

 

Then there’s the type of doing good where you take responsibility for something in the world. This is the type of ‘doing good’ that is hard, much more arduous and subtle... it’s fraught with pitfalls. There is a real level of responsibility - to keep yourself on track. Because good can be elusive... and bad very often enters and subverts the process as soon as you’re not attentive. This is doing good from a place of strength.

 

Then there’s the undoing of ones ‘self’ and operating from a bigger Self... this is when the preference for good or bad is gone. This is the action of a ‘Sage’. Where one taps a motiveless, uncontrived source of action. So you just act effortlessly from this deep well of wisdom - and that sets into motion a cascade of cause and effect ripples that are ultimately profoundly ‘good’ - but might look bad at first - like wacking someone with a stick (seemingly bad) but it results in a transcendent state for the one being wacked (profoundly good).

 

Unfortunately most of us won’t ever get close to being these perfected sages... so that leaves us with the other two...

 

And also - the controversial bit. Doing good has nothing to do with spiritual growth. In fact - if your main aim in life is spiritual growth, you’ll need to let go of ‘doing good’ at some point. You’ll need to let go of any preference whatsoever in fact.

 

But for most of us - I say do good from a place of strength. But keep a sense of humour about it. Treat it lightly. Have some humility. Be vigilant and don’t let it build new layers of identity for yourself. Don’t do it because you want to be good. Do it just coz that’s what you do. Knowing full well the futility involved (and this is where humour helps)... Do it coz you can. Because it’s something you choose to do. What you do matters. 

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19 hours ago, Stosh said:

Answer this please, why do you think you need to have no darkness ensue, in order to have a reason to do anything?

(which is implied in your OP)

It seems like the goal of good. To spread to the whole world. I've been working a lot on my mental health and these positive practices keep showing up. Gratitude, compassion, mindfulness, loving kindness- all evidence points to them being beneficial to an individual's emotional state and also to those around them.

 

But I can't get over the feeling that there will be some kind of backlash. That the universe will balance it out somehow. I should probably just let it go, come back to the present, breathe, etc. Which helps a little but it doesn't answer the question.

 

 

Edit: then again, since my default mode has traditionally been negative, maybe more positive will balance me out.

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Edited by moraldilemma

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19 hours ago, Lost in Translation said:

 

There is no darkness. There is only shadow. Light can exist without shadow, but only when there is nothing to shine upon. As soon as there is something to shine upon then shadow is born.

 

A good question to ask is why cling to shadow? Why fear the light?

I don't know fam. Space looks like complete and total darkness peppered with a lot of tiny lights. I don't fear the light. I don't want to cling to either, but that's a bit like giving up, escaping, letting everything go.

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2 hours ago, moraldilemma said:

It seems like the goal of good. To spread to the whole world. I've been working a lot on my mental health and these positive practices keep showing up. Gratitude, compassion, mindfulness, loving kindness- all evidence points to them being beneficial to an individual's emotional state and also to those around them.

 

But I can't get over the feeling that there will be some kind of backlash. That the universe will balance it out somehow. I should probably just let it go, come back to the present, breathe, etc. Which helps a little but it doesn't answer the question.

 

 

Edit: then again, since my default mode has traditionally been negative, maybe more positive will balance me out.

 

That's a really good answer, I'm trying to aim you at my answer , by asking these few things of you , with the hope that you will arrive at the conclusion that is most consistent with your own beliefs , anchored in your own experience. )

 

IF the case is , that , the good or bad in the universe always balances out , no-matter what one tries to do ,

1) the universe can be said to be impartial, 

And

2) you would have no power to affect the ratio of good to bad  going forward .

Right? 

 

So if this is true , the question to you is ...."Would you still wish to be a person who does good things ?" , ( as you judge them , and regardless of whether its endorsed by the universe.) 

" Or would you then wish to-- do those things which you consider bad ? ,, consider yourself bad"

 

Edited by Stosh

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13 hours ago, freeform said:

Unfortunately most of us won’t ever get close to being these perfected sages ...

 

A thought crossed my mind as I read your post.

 

You speak almost as if the elevation to the bigger self is a quantum leap ... all or nothing ... sort of thing. Is it not possible that a person, through cultivative practice, move/improve gradually toward the bigger self? 

 

I like to think that I am a better more attuned person than I was twenty, thirty or fourty years ago. Albeit far from perfected. 

 

Btw ... not sure I will be accepting if the answer is delusion. :wacko:

 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, moraldilemma said:

... mental health and these positive practices keep showing up.

 

I don't know.

 

Perhaps these things ... perceived as positive practice ... are the natural consequence of a changed sense of self. In that sense, where would a backlash come from? Hard to believe the universe would begrudge a little more selflessness in existence.

 

Just thinking out loud.

 

 

Edited by OldDog
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Thinking about the ultimate utility of doing something (whatever) is a sure way to kill all joy in simply being alive.

 

One has to live like an animal (without much thought), or like a sage who has not only seen the ultimate futility of life but also (and this is crucial!) the futility of bothering about the ultimate futility of life. Only thinking it trough halfway will result in depression or worse.

 

That's how I solved the issue.

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10 hours ago, OldDog said:

Is it not possible that a person, through cultivative practice, move/improve gradually toward the bigger self? 

 

Great question. 

 

We can think of it in terms of something more objectively verifiable... like skill for example. Let’s say skill in speaking a second language...

 

With any skilfully directed endeavour, progression is never linear. Take the language learning as an example... most people learning a language know that their ability to use the new language improves in leaps. With plateaus in between. The act of learning will be linear (you always have 4 classes a week) but your ability will jump a level now and then... First you recognise words... then something clicks and you recognise grammar... then something clicks and you manage to speak some words and be understood... then sentences... then more complex sentences... and so on until one day you wake up and realise that you were dreaming in your new language.

 

And so it is in cultivation. 

 

So of course you can make jumps, develop certain virtues before others and so on.

 

But what we’ve done as a culture is we’ve massively lowered ‘the bar’ - particularly in relation to spirituality. So we equate ‘learning a bit of vocab’ with ‘dreaming in the new language’. But they’re on a completely different level altogether. Knowing a bit of vocab we think we know what it’s like to dream in the new language - that’s the delusion bit. (And in no way am I saying that you’re doing this!)

 

But we have people with ‘a bit of vocab’ writing books and selling seminars and teaching everyone they can about this new language... not only that, but adding their own changes, reinterpretations, new meanings etc. And so others come and they learn a small part of that ‘bit of vocab’ and then they pass that on by teaching and what results is just a mess. This is where spirituality is at the moment in my opinion.

 

But thats besides the point...

 

Yes of course you’ll develop as you train. But each jump in level is a major paradigm shift. And the previous level is clearly seen for all its limitations.

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3 hours ago, wandelaar said:

Thinking about the ultimate utility of doing something (whatever) is a sure way to kill all joy in simply being alive.

 

Yeah - it leads to Nihilism at some point.

 

And that’s what I think the underlying question of the OP really is... 

 

Do we live in a nihilistic universe where everything is relative and nothing really matters?

 

Well it can be viewed that way, yes. Or we can see it in another way.

 

The other way is that - yes everything you do really matters. Which means you better take responsibility for your actions. Not because some made up god tells you to - but because you decide so

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3 minutes ago, freeform said:

 Not because some made up god tells you to - but because you decide so

 

That option only works for those who can simply decide to believe in some ultimate purpose, so it didn't work for me. I'm perfectly capable of making up some purpose for myself, but that by definition wouldn't be the ultimate purpose (unless of course I would have hit the mark by pure chance).

 

But as I said if everything is ultimately futile then that also goes for worrying about ultimately futility. So the problem eats itself up, and after that one can return to the everyday world and resume the busy life that goes with its relative concerns. So the net result is that philosophically inclined people have to spend years of their life on investigating a problem that is instinctively ignored as irrelevant by ordinary and philosophically unsophisticated people. And finally the philosophically inclined arrive at the same point as the  philosophically unsophisticated in disposing of the problem as a waste of time. Now isn't that ironic!

 

(But it's in line with the TTC. ;))

 

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3 hours ago, wandelaar said:

Now isn't that ironic!

 

 

Boy howdy, wandelaar. You said a mouthful. It seems to lead to an absurdity. But, I .. as philosophical dabbler ... just can't bring myself to throw in the towel on this one.

 

Nihilism and fatalism sure leave a bad taste.

 

In a sense, I think this is exactly the kind of thing that set me off on the search lo these many years ago. The reason I have been involved with Daoist thought is that it seems to offer the best chance of breaking out of the vicious cycle you so aptly describe. I may never find all the answers ... or any answers ...but I have to try. So, don't really see it as a waste of time ... back to nihilism and fatalism.

 

In the back of my head is the notion that as individual instances of life, this seeking activity is part of what it is about ... becoming an expression of the diversity within the unity. 

 

As for the practical side of just living in the world of things, I think the understanding and practice of Dao offers guidance in how to do just that.

 

 

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2 hours ago, wandelaar said:

That option only works for those who can simply decide to believe in some ultimate purpose, so it didn't work for me

 

For me it’s not a question of belief or faith. I just act as if it’s true and observe the results.

 

I also feel it’s important that it’s something I decide to follow. 

 

It’s not the church telling me. It’s not science telling me. It’s me telling me. (Although obviously informed by something outside of me). But it’s this act of taking responsibility that’s important in my opinion. The locus of control is in me not in an external authority. That’s important for me personally.

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On 1/22/2019 at 10:41 PM, moraldilemma said:

  I asked a Zen master this. Why vow to free all beings if suffering will always be around no matter what we do?  

How can suffering  be around if all beings are free of it? You people speak in contradictions

On 1/22/2019 at 10:41 PM, moraldilemma said:

 

But I can't shake this irrational fear that doing good might cause an equal amount of bad.  

Nor good nor bad will make no difference, relax)

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@ OldDog

 

Taoism does break out of the circle, but it does so by giving a non-answer. The foundation of the world is called Tao. This is OK because the world clearly has a certain structure and way of behaving, so there has to be such a foundation, and we may call this Tao. But now the logically next question is: Why is Tao as it is? (This is a problem because we can imagine all kinds of other worlds that consequently would have other Tao's as their foundation.) Now it is said that Tao is spontaneously as it is. This is a logically correct answer because if there actually were a reason for Tao to be as it is, than that Tao wouldn't be the true foundation of the world. So the chain of reasons has to stop somewhere to provide an ultimate reason, and in Taoism it stops right away with Tao. In this way no real answer is given why the world is as it is, or what we as humans are doing here. And this is exactly what I like about (philosophical) Taoism. It doesn't go beyond what can safely be known, and thus it keeps the ultimate mystery of existence intact.

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4 hours ago, freeform said:

... we’ve massively lowered ‘the bar’...

 

Hmmm. If what you mean by that is spirituality has been dumbed down to the masses ... I don't think I can argue with that. Seems like it is sort of a bait and switch sort of thing. Something takes on the appearance of spirituality ... usually by appropriating some language or ideas ... and then begins to manipulate those attracted in the name of spirituality. Enter mass marketing, political influence, etc.

 

On the other hand, we are kind of the blame for that. We don't do much to prepare people to deal with spiritual issues. Unless one takes the initiative and engages philosophy, spirituality and religion or social psychology ... or some such ... at an academic level. The only recourse is individual interest to read, explore and learn on thier own.

 

 

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On 22-1-2019 at 7:41 PM, moraldilemma said:

I ask this here because yin and yang are Daoist ideas (universal law in my opinion, though I probably don't understand it). I get that doing good feels good and it's good for you. But I can't shake this irrational fear that doing good might cause an equal amount of bad. (*Edit: For example modern medicine is considered to be good in general, as it saves millions and millions of lives. But it's one of the causes of overpopulation, which is contributing to climate change which is bad.) Would like some experienced Daoist perspective on this.

 

 

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8 hours ago, wandelaar said:

There are two schools: one of sudden enlightenment and one of gradual enlightenment. They are probably both correct.

 

 Interesting you should mention this.

 

The gradual enlightenment ... think attainment is a better word .. path is the one where various traditions have layed out a prescribed approach based on the relative success of adherents. They establish schools of thought and practice. Where many get into trouble is that by building such rigid approaches and boundaries they impeded exploration and expansion. They can stagnate.

 

On the other hand ... and you don't hear it often ... if you read enough of the ancient texts, you will find a reference that says essentially that complex methods are not necessary ... that one can have a direct experience/attainment. Where I have encounterd this it is often in a discussion of reducing or putting aside knowledge to open one up to experience. Now that's interesting.

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42 minutes ago, freeform said:

For me it’s not a question of belief or faith. I just act as if it’s true and observe the results.

 

I also feel it’s important that it’s something I decide to follow. 

 

It’s not the church telling me. It’s not science telling me. It’s me telling me. (Although obviously informed by something outside of me). But it’s this act of taking responsibility that’s important in my opinion. The locus of control is in me not in an external authority. That’s important for me personally.

 

Yes - I think I understand your approach. One could do that as soon as the idea of a somehow objective ultimate purpose no longer bothers one. It looks like the OP is still under the spell of such an ultimate purpose or of its perceived necessity.

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27 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

It doesn't go beyond what can safely be known, and thus it keeps the ultimate mystery of existence intact.

 

Yes, that is the most revealing statement. It is at the very heart of the paradox of the Dao. 

 

Somehow after having arrived at the paradox, you can be accepting of the ambiguity and lack of certainty. At least that's how I receive it.

 

And just because it is ambiguous and uncertain does not mean one cannot make use of it. At one point we could not understand electricity but we sure made use of it. And then there is gravity ... we are still working on that.

 

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As to sudden and gradual enlightenment I think that apart from lineages and schools it also depends on one's personality what will happen.

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20 hours ago, wandelaar said:

... depends on one's personality what will happen.

 

True enough. We are not always ready to accept a teaching. When I was young I was what you might call a science bigot. I rejected any larning that was not science. My view was pretty narrow. In college I resented having to take any course that was not in line with traditional Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics curriculum. Just didn't see the point. Took a long time to get over that.

 

There is an old saying ...

 

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

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