Friday, September 30, 2011

Dying to Self

He who knows men is clever;
He who knows himself has insight.
He who conquers men has force;
He who conquers himself is truly strong.

He who knows when he has got enough is rich,
And he who adheres assiduously to the path of Tao is a
      man of steady purpose.
He who stays where he has found his true home
      endures long,
And he who dies but perishes not enjoys real longevity.

-- Lao Tzu --
("Tao Te Ching")

Verse 33 from the Tao Te Ching, above, like teachings from all the world's great wisdom traditions, identifies the great metaphysical challenge for all men and women: to know, and then overcome, their own narrow "selves." For in every one of us a separate ego-self arises, but in only a very select few is it overcome.

"It is by self-forgetting," St. Francis of Assisi affirmed, "that one finds. . . . It is by dying (to self) that one awakens to Eternal Life." Or, as Lao Tzu put it, "(H)e who dies but perishes not enjoys real longevity." Thus, not only is being born a second time a great spiritual goal, but perhaps more so is dying to one's self while remaining in the world.  It is the loftiest of goals, only to be achieved by disciplining the mind that has created the second self of the ego.

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