Spiritual wins are usually losses in life and wins in life are often spiritual losses. Let’s say “mammon” when we refer to life to indicate the materiality of it. In the tao te ching, it says “one gains by losing and loses by gaining.” the point is that in life, if “everything is going well,” you may have no motivation to turn within and grow. And when “things are tough,” we are more inclined to look within to try and understand or to “turn to our faith” for strength. When one is receiving rewards of mammon, one may be too caught up in that “pleasure” to focus spiritually or even have a reason or motive for doing so in the first place. Further, earning rewards of mammon takes time and this is often done by someone devoid of spiritual sensibilities. Remember Christ said “it is easier to fit a camel through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.”
I am not advocating poverty. Poverty has its own drawbacks. When you are poor, you may not have enough free time to work on your spirituality. Further, you may not be able to take care of your physical health, which is also a hindrance to spiritual development, particularly in the Taoist tradition. One comfort of this lesson about gain and loss is when you are dissatisfied with your material situation in life, you may consider how this is helping you spiritually. Use this “edgeyness” to your spiritual advantage. What lesson can you learn that will help you to correct the situation? one hallmark of a taoist is they look within for their own faults when they experience a lack or problem in their lives. God gets your attention with hardship if you’re too preoccupied with mammon.
I’ve seen people go through some training or classes and be somewhat ignored when they have a bad attitude. (arrogant, or some facsimile) on the other hand, you may go to class and your teacher is all over you with correction and criticism and if you’re not centered you may forget what a blessing it is to receive criticism and instruction and not be ignored and left to your own devices. the point is that in life, why wouldn’t the same principle apply with God? When you see someone who “seems to have it all,” does he really? if you don’t learn and grow here, you may be punished after somewhere else very unpleasant, or you may have to come back in worse conditions so you learn your lesson then. Karma is real.
I don’t want anyone to avoid joyous opportunities or to not strive to be financially strong. Making money is necessary and besides, its what you do with it and how you relate to money that matters. If you see money as a tool to support your growth, and your health and you help others when you can, make as much as you want! But be careful…when I think about the kind of man I could have been if I came into a lot of money when I was younger, I am grateful I struggled. Adversity creates strong people. Diamonds are made through intense pressure. Don’t be ashamed to struggle. A lot of people “avoid” their problems by getting high or intoxicated somehow. If you are meeting life on life’s terms, you are in a good position to change your life.
There is another aspect of losing by gaining and gaining by losing. If you lose at something, you often learn more than if you won. Its true one can win with humility and that is a positive lesson, but losing with grace and not sacrificing your inner bouyancy is a much more solid lesson. Also, its hard to be humble when you’re “flying high.” the tao te ching says “God lowers the full and raises up the humble.” humility is the most auspicious quality possible according to the I ching. I would say perseverance and humility are two qualities that will take you almost anywhere. in hagakure there is mention that ‘I would rather be useless but resolute than talented and weak,’ or something like that. Intelligence, talent and wealth are not necessarily blessings to someone who is bent on spiritual development. We will discuss intelligence and the pitfalls of that in another post on the difference between knowledge and experience.
I should also comment on the sacrifice one must make when one commits to spiritual realization. Many of the things one holds dear in this life may have to be given up. What one can expect from “romantic” relationships, the “american dream,” even non-material things one wanted for oneself like certain powers, etc must all be given up or radically adjusted. Nothing that bolsters ego will work spiritually, not at more advanced levels anyway. I remember when I first was informed what I could rightly expect from relations with girls, I was quite shocked and dismayed. The truth is not always pleasant. Its like what morpheus said in “the matrix,” he said something like “if you take this pill, I’m only offering you the truth.” when neo awoke, it was into a rough existence. The first matrix movie certainly had a lot of metaphysical truth to it. So some things may feel like loses, but they are also gains. With some things, the full weight of it is not known until death. One may not see the gain until death. This is up to you to decide if what I am saying is true or not and what to do about it is also your choice.
Please see the above post, “the tao of skate,” and note the analogy of Christmas.
Thanks for reading this.