The Way of the Sage

By: Mustafa Ali

"The sage discards the excessive, the extravagant, the overbearing."
- Tao Te Ching

To cast away the ostentatious for perhaps not asceticism, rather a middle path. This is the way of the sage. This clashes with our modernistic view of life: to gain material things to meet a counterfeit happiness. Success - in the Western sense - is dictated by futile wealth and trivial fame. In their eyes, to attain the worldly treasures is to reach the highest level of success. But the highest level of success in the world is abased in comparison to even the lowest level of heavenly spirituality. Happiness cannot be attained through materialism. Perhaps, certain hardships can be pushed aside, or a neutral attitude can be obtained; an empty feeling. This empty feeling is the cause of the desire for an empty world, devoid of spirituality except in the remotest of places. True happiness lies in the spiritual domain. 

"The perfect man is a spiritual being. Even if great oceans burned up, he would not feel hot. Even if the great rivers are frozen, he would not feel cold. And even if terrific thunder were to break up mountains and the wind were to upset the sea, he would not be afraid. Being such, he mounts upon the clouds and forces of heaven, rides on the sun and the moon, and roams beyond the four seas. Neither life nor death affects him. How much less can such matters as benefit and harm?"
- Chuang Tzu

One who sincerely defeats themselves against their lust for this world will gain ascendancy over the material realm; in other words, enlightenment. Hence, this world cannot magnify fear into the heart of the one who has none. The lack of fear is due to reliance and trust in God. This world has no control over the one who has overcome it, and this world cannot hurt the one who has trust in God. Life and death is nullified, for one who has triumphed over their soul's desires has escaped the binds of this realm, and entered the realm of heaven. Life and death is a concept only applicable to this world, for once one has travelled beyond this worldly plane, heavenly existence remains. One becomes engrossed in spirituality - in God - above the lowly material domain in which we are in.

This way of the sage is not only in Chinese philosophy, but also can be found in numerous religious texts such as the Bible:

"Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.'"
- John: 3.3

or in Islamic hadith:

"Salvation for the soul is [attained] through self-struggle."
-Ali ibn Abi Talib

In not only Chinese philosophy, but Christian and Islamic as well, the way of the sage is clear: to struggle against the desires of the self by discarding that which is excessive in materialism; in essence, to be reborn. The fruit of this struggle is the salvation of the soul and the freedom from the shallow, physical realm. Wisdom is gained and enlightenment is indisputable.

"Struggle against the desires of your self and wisdom will enter your hearts."
- Prophet Muhammad
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