Longevity - 長壽 - Chángshòu
Morning is best spent in thought,
treading lightly on sleepy sidewalks.
The afternoon is a time for action,
tearing up the weeds in the garden
while taking in the sun.
Each day's joys and labors:
integral components to one life's journey.
~inspired by Deng Ming-Dao
If all you wish for is spiritual realization, it isn't that difficult. For the average individual, a dozen years of guidance under a gifted teacher will provide that. That is shorter than what it takes to become a great musician, artist, or athlete. It is even shorter than it would take to collect a retirement pension. If you have the good fortune to be tutored by an extremely gifted educator, you may succeed in an even shorter period of time.
But once you have achieved this, then what?
Many of us place such emphasis on attaining realization that we forget to place it into context. What actually matters is to walk the walk, not to simply talk. The walking Tao is meant to maintain vitality, until we meet our timely end. Spiritual realization is essential, but it is not everything to a spiritual life.
A starving person devotes an inordinate amount of thought to food. Likewise, a spiritual-starved individual can only think of salvation. One who has food places it in the proper context, just as one with understanding can place it in the correct perspective. Followers of Tao must not emphasize enlightenment as the ultimate goal. Realization is a means, not the end. Emphasis must be placed on the act of living. In this way, the sages use the word longevity, not because they wish to live forever, but because the word symbolizes their stoic determination to live the entire course of their lives well.
Living a good life is more important than the longest life lived off-course.