The Path Of A Spiritual Master: A Means To An End Or An End In Itself?

2251 words - 10 pages

Throughout history there has been a division between the East and the West, which goes beyond the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. In short, the world has been separated by Eastern and Western philosophy, cultures, traditions, and religions. However, with the spread of globalization, various religious and philosophical movements made its way across the oceans from East to West, and vice-versa. Even though there is a heavy presence of Eastern religions, traditions, and philosophies in the West, some of the concepts associated with them are yet to be accepted or taken seriously by many in the Western society. To name a few of these concepts, immortality, self-perfection, and asceticism, are just some of the prominent concepts in one particular Eastern religious tradition, Daoism. However, contemporary philosophers and scholars of Eastern thought and tradition are trying to establish an open discussion about these ancient ideas and beliefs that are alive and well in the 21st century Eastern Asia.
While there is a strong belief among Western society that “no one is perfect”, the adherents of Daoism are focused on achieving “self-perfection” through attunement with the Dao. The ultimate goal for adherents of the Daoist tradition is to reach a state of immortality, which requires self-transformation through the cultivation of the self by practicing a series of Daoist attainment models. All the while, the Western scientific community is yet to crack the immortality code with all its technology and innovation. Nevertheless, in contemporary times, and with the arrival of Eastern philosophy, religions, and traditions in the West, many people are turning inward and using a tool believed to have more power than an atomic bomb, the human mind. In the East however, namely China, India and in other various Asian countries, the mind has long been a powerful tool used as a means of self-transformation as well as to achieve immortal status. Yet, the mind is only a tool, and not the way per se. This paper will define and discuss asceticism within the Chinese Daoist tradition, taking into account modern beliefs and expectations of Western society. In so doing, it will consider the different methods of using the capacity of the human might and mind as a self-cultivation tool towards the path of liberation. Finally, it will attempt to answer the following questions: (1) Is asceticism a means to an end or an end-in-itself in the path to liberation? (2) Is the ascetic practice a necessary and sufficient means to becoming an immortal?
The Daoist practice of asceticism began in 1164 during the Song dynasty (960-1279) after Wang Zhe (1113-1170) abandoned his military career aspirations and family, becoming secluded from society and completely devoting himself to a religious path . Daoist scholars accounts that Wang Zhe was dissatisfied with the Chinese models of society, and after allegedly having mystical experiences with immortals, Wang Zhe dedicated his life to...

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