Saintly Thoughts

Of Taoism & Immortality

What of the Taoist tradition?  Could it be true, as this tradition suggests, that the desire for a personal existence in the afterlife is itself an evil that must be eradicated from the human experience?  It is true, in the name of some semblance of a personalized  immortality men have committed great evils against their fellows (for every act of violence is in some way a grasping at immortality against the will of the gods).  But this need not be the same thing as rejecting the morality of the entire enterprise, is it?  Of course, the question is worth asking, if we imagine an eternally good and significant afterlife, what do we imagine it as being?  I know that, for myself, sometimes I feel quite burdened by the struggle for existence and consciousness itself.  Granted, when we imagine a good afterlife, we do not generally imagine being bored and restless in such a state, but then, I sometimes think that my ideal afterlife would be nothing more than en eternal sleep.  Not non-being, you understand, but an eternal state of restfulness.  Is this so different from the eastern conceptualization of a return to that great cloud of undifferentiated being from whence we once sprang?  Maybe.  I will admit that, whether I accept or reject such a notion, it is even harder for me to conceive of such an afterlife than it is to conceive of the personalized afterlives of heaven and hell imagined in the western tradition.  And frankly, this has less to do with the necessity of some sense of cosmic justice than one might suppose.