Question: As a Westerner approaching an Eastern system of spirituality, I find some major differences. One is the way Westerners view the world, people, and events as “good” or “bad.” I understand that in the Taoist system there is no “good” or “bad.” Can you help me understand this?
If you want to challenge yourself, you have to let go of what you call the “good” and “bad” experiences. Process them and let them go. You have to accept all of your positive and negative reactions to people, situations, and experiences; process them; and let them go, too. You have to see and accept the positive and negative sides of yourself. This involves a big-heartedness and humility. You accept yourself, you accept everything; take it all in and then let it go—all the while not losing sight of your place in the big picture, your mission, and your destiny.
In this life, we make judgments between good and bad. In the beginning of the spiritual journey, it is natural to think this way. But those who have been on the path for a while see the world differently. Their understanding of what is “good” and what is “bad” changes.
The first level is to know what is “bad.” The second is to know what is “good.” At the third level, we try to do what we perceive as good and avoid doing what we see as bad. The fourth and highest level is to understand that good and bad are just two different sides of the whole—then we can accept everything. Good and bad are opposite sides of the same coin and contain the same quantity of energy. When a criminal converts and changes his ways, he has the potential to become as good as he was bad. We come to understand the truth of the Tao: that there is no “good” or “bad.” These categories are based on our judgments; they are not real.
However, we have to accept the level that we are on. If we are on the level of still seeing “good” and “bad,” then we should have the passion to do only good. On this level of judgment, we suffer because we are neither 100 percent good nor 100 percent bad. We have to trust what life presents, no matter what it looks like on the outside. The truth lies deep within, deeper than our judgments of good and bad. If you go deep, you will find this truth.