Friday, October 21, 2011

Meditation and ecapism

Carl Jung frowned upon westerners who tried to escape from their worldly responsibilities and plunge into the mythical world of Eastern esoteric practice, like Taoist Neidan or deep meditation. According to Jung, the ultimate psychological objective for Taoist meditation was a psychological preparation for the acceptance of eventual death. Not just as a religious belief, like going to heaven (or hell, not for oneself but for the die-hard sinners) or reincarnation (into human again if one did pretty morally during one's life-time), but as physically experiencing death as a psychological resolution and as a pleasant experience. The above comes from Jung's commentary to the "Secret of the Golden Flower".

Classic Taoist texts did mention many proficient (proficient in the art of Neidan) Taoists who went into the mountains during the final phase of their physical lives. Whereas "becoming immortal" is part of a belief system, passing one's last worldly days or years peacefully and with happiness is an objective of sound psychological health.  Again according to Jung.

Escapism is something else. Seasoned meditators know that they can leave behind worries on worldly matters (such worries include the case of, say, a budding "spiritual guru" worrying about where to get money to pay for his month-end rent), or even physical pain during deep meditation. But once outside meditation, a rational meditator knows that he has to solve his worldly problem like everybody else. And if he can truly benefit from his meditative practice, he can perhaps attain a post-meditation mind that enables him to find a fresher, better or more creative solution to his daily problems.

Escapism is like allowing oneself to be in a "trance-like" state while forgetting about one's responsibility during the whole or most of the day.   In today's market economy, unless one is affiliated with a wealth spiritual organization, a guru has many financial and personal matters to worry about, just like any responsible adult. And he certainly can't escape into "trance-like" state when he is confronted by his landlord asking for rents, no matter whether he believes in the superiority of the spirit!

And how about the situation when one is, finally, financially secured? And one's kids are grown ups? And one's parents are deceased? And one's spouse and relations have been well taken cared of? According to most Taoist Neidan classics, this is a situation in which an ordinary citizen can pursue the higher goal of Immortality - and to practice it among the mountains.

Having said that the Taoist classics were written at a time where China had generations of authoritarian governments. I always wonder should these Taoist masters be living in the contemporary world (of free economy, democracy, human rights, and the possibility of change), could they be completely at one with oneself after finishing their rather "selfish" responsibilities of having taken care of their families and relations? Or could they be just selfish people who only took up the path of Taoist Neidan or Immortality after failed in the official exams for future Mandarins? An interesting question I shall tackle in some future posts.

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