Austerities - 苦行 - Kǔxíng
Discipline your self.
Find the path which leads
to greater spirituality.
Real progress is only possible
why practice is important.
Everyone walks a different path,
but how many have a goal in mind?
For some, the end seems unimportant.
The choice is yours-
Blend in with the Lost,
scavenge for meaning
through material gratification.
Or you can utilize foresight
to find clarity in the chaos
and achieve the greatness
which results from austerity.
Look around at any school and you will find two types of students: one group practices a disciplined lifestyle with clear purpose in mind, while the other group blindly follow the disciplined approach. Discipline with purpose is a means to achieve potentially great ends, and thus, is largely healthy. Blind discipline, devoid of purpose, invariably becomes fanaticism.
Think of the many spiritual masters who have practiced harsh asceticism throughout the ages. A sage might flog themselves as a means of purification through physical torture. Some monks lived uncomfortably as hermits in damp, frigid caves for years on end, enduring untold hardship in a quest for spiritual knowledge. The priest who starves himself in pursuit of the holy spirit may perch perilously close to death and push his body beyond the bounds of recuperation. If one fails to find enlightenment through these trials, it may seem natural to push farther in hopes of uncovering the mystery. All too often, people on this path face a crisis when their ultimate goal evaporates before their eyes. We must possess a strong sense of discipline but even this must be brought into balance. We must not lose sight of our inner meaning for this life.
Austere living is possible to a great many without the need for esoteric practices. What is needed is a clear understanding of one's actions - the why and the how. Keep the mind active in decision-making; go through the extra effort and hardship to determine if a certain course is advisable. Are you likely to gain or lose from the subsequent interaction? This is what discipline and austerity are truly about: making extra effort towards gaining a better life.