Updated: Feb 17
Indulgence and Moderation In following any spiritual path an obstacle that almost everyone will come up against is worldly temptations. In the transformation from acting on one's desires from an unconscious standpoint, to the ingestion of all things with consciousness, the forces must be balanced. These temptations include things like drugs, sex, entertainment, food and drink, sensory pleasure, material acquisitions, dreams and ambitions, and anything sought after in gratification of the Self. In Buddhism this is known as Tanha (thirst) and it is a source of suffering/dissatisfaction (dukkha). The lowest of these cravings are purely carnal lusts, for example recreational use of Heroin, Alcohol, Tobacco, or even Marijuana. Fulfilling these motives serves only the ego and temporary satisfaction (not to speak exclusively, there can be spirituality tied to ingestion of drugs). Higher forms of these cravings come in the form of ambitions, motives, goals, these might be called sublimated desires, as the mechanism of desire is being appropriated in service of achieving something lasting. The highest forms of these are self-sacrifices, complete offering of oneself to charity with no expectation of receiving reward in return. One reaches the state of no greater reward than service, and will be completely loyal to that highest intention. Even this state is a sin, as its merit doesn't belong to anyone, and to take credit for it is to become inflated with God or the Self. One has still intervened out of human desire for glory or martyrdom.
As normal people we may aim at something like this in our unconscious, representing it as the highest cause, and beat ourselves up when we don't reach it. Making a complex of God or the Divine as a force of judgment, one that scolds us for not being as good as we should be. This is more of a projection the world has given us, often received through expectations put on us by peers, parents and ancestors, and society at large. Such a feeling towards oneself can also be sublimated, knowing that ones judgment is aiming to show one a better way, rather than to punish. For as we judge ourselves, we judge others. To cultivate virtue in a Confucian sense it is best to use this force harshly on oneself, and bestow mercifully on everyone else, leading one towards the ideal state of being a Zhenren, a perfected person, a peer of Heaven. Orthodox followers of Daoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and many other paths consider this to be the right way to follow, one of reducing selfish desires to the point of exhaustion, thus merging with the transcendent. The Adam of flesh dying for the Adam of spirit. Having no further desire, the divine is completed. This is what defines a Right Hand spiritual path, the Pillar of Severity, on the left side of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life when looking at it. This would be the Right side of the body if one pictures themselves looking out of the Tree, within it. When one doesn't have this force in balance it brings hell upon ones self, wandering endlessly between desires, incarnating hungry ghosts, never able to look back at oneself with acceptance, workaholism. The Left Hand spiritual paths can be seen as the Pillar of Mercy on the Tree of Life, on the right when looking at the diagram, and on the Left if picturing oneself looking out of it. Left Hand paths value freedom, exploration, liberation. In a Left Hand path the greatest goal is enjoyment and opening of restriction for the soul. There is no karma, no judgment, all is perfectly as it should be. We are always immaculate children of light, exploring the many things in creation. An imbalance on this side manifests regression, degeneracy, acceptance of what is wrong, improper firmness and flexbility. So the human soul stands between the Left and Right, between discipline and laxity, between hardness and softness, between masculine and feminine. Followers of paths like Shaolin, Yoga, and other types of Mystics use the Right Hand path, attaining powers and states that are impossible in an ordinary persons mind, things like voluntary control of the organs and autonomic functions, resistance to extreme cold, and endurance. Whichever side we follow, the shadow is projected onto the other side, and when that happens we have made ourselves a standard of the law and brought it down upon our dominion. The goal for some is integration, for others to be one or the other side fully. The Buddhist seeks the end of suffering with the middle way, being not too tight or too lose, not participating in/nor excluding any of the Six Realms of Samsara. The Dao itself is already perfectly mixed between the two without preference, this is expressed well in this chapter of the Dao De Jing: http://www.wussu.com/laotzu/laotzu31.html.
Thus for a human to become like the Dao one gradually refines out the aspects of ones being bound to mortality. The shadow projected onto the other side is also rebuked at the higher levels, as the law is not ours to judge. This is represeted in Christ, the son of God, who is a mortal man nailed to a cross, paying for both the sins of the left and right hand in bringing about his father, and also gaining resurrection from the death that is in both.
As a person grows up through the path they must personally confront what is correct for that life they find themselves in. If it is true that our lives are finite and running out, it can add fuel to a hedonistic disposition or an ascetic disposition. Better to become accepting of the nothingness while still alive in the body? Or to indulge in material delights while we still can? Thus the Dao values moderation. Our material delights cannot become all one lives for or they will be robbed of spirit, and if one delights only in the spirit they will find no pleasure in the things of the world, letting opportunities and novel experiences pass us by, becoming like an old hermit while still a young man. This is a good reason for holidays, and scheduling in ones life when indulgence is allowed. To spend most of our time in chastity and on occasion to allow oneself to be given over to pleasure, or perhaps it is opposite for some, to spend the majority of time in freedom, and on rare occasion to observe fast. As a sojourner on this path I still do not have the answer, I bounce back and forth, letting myself get away with a lot of laxity at times, while in other areas enforcing more strictness. While playing with indulgence and moderation we go into self-discovery leading us to uncover our own Self archetype, what God as represented by our purest selves would be like and want us to do.
Image 1: The Buddha
Image 2: The Tai Ji Tu, The Yin Yang, The Supreme Ultimate Diagram
Image 3: The Pillars of Boaz and Jachim, Mercy and Severity
Image 4: The Crucified Jesus Christ