Personal Authenticity and Moral Standards

Theme of the following quotations: Sometimes the expression of personal authenticity may seem to conflict with the given moral standards of the culture in which we live. Those standards are expressions of dualistic concepts of right/wrong, good/evil, etc. Many standards vary from culture to culture. All are mental constructs which belie the natural perfection of what is, of Being from which the deepest expressions of authenticity originate.

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Whether you are bound by a gold chain or an iron one, you are in captivity. Your virtuous activities are the gold chain, your evil ones the iron one. He who shakes off both the chains of good and evil that imprison him, him I call a Brahmin – he has attained the Supreme Truth.

~ Frederick Franck, (1909-2006),
American artist and author,
quoting a Buddhist scripture in The Book of Angelus Silesius


Our behavior and expressions are controlled by a superego, with its lists of Do’s and Don’ts and the power to punish if one violates its commandments. The superego is the internalization of the “dictatorial” parent. It functions, however, below the level of consciousness so that we are not aware that the limitations it imposes upon our feelings and actions are not the result of our free will. Dethroning the superego and restoring and individual’s freedom of expression does not turn him into an uncivilized being; rather, it is a condition that allows him to be a responsible member of society, a truly moral person. Only a free person is respectful of the rights and freedom of others.

~ Alexander Lowen, M.D.,
American bioenergetic analyst, (1910-2008),
in Joy


All this talk of goodness and duty, these perpetual pinpricks, unnerve and irritate the hearer; nothing, indeed could be more destructive of his inner tranquility. If you indeed want the men of the world not to lose the qualities that are natural to them, you had best study how it is that Heaven and Earth maintain their eternal course…thus you too shall lean to follow the course that the Way of Nature sets; and soon you will reach a goal where you will no longer need to go round laboriously advertising goodness and duty, like the town-crier with his drum, seeking for news of a lost child. No, Sir! What you are doing is to disjoint men’s natures!

~ Chuang Tzu (399 BC-295 BC),
Chinese philosopher,
quoted in Crazy Wisdom by Wes Nisker


Oh you can walk the straight and narrow,
But with a little bit o’ luck,
you’ll run amuck!
They’re always throwin’ goodness at you,
But with a little bit o’ luck,
A man can duck!

~ The character of Alfie, from song, “With a Little Bit of Luck

of My Fair Lady (1964)
by Alan Lerner (1918-1986) and Fredrick Loewe (1904-1988),
American songwriters


In spiritual work, concepts of a devil, of dark forces, of some evil that exists on its own outside of the goodness of reality are considered manifestation of ignorance, both in terms of believing in such concepts and in terms of the manifestations attributed to such forces. All spiritual work would be pointless if there were such a thing as ultimate evil.

~ A.H. Almaas (1944-present),
American psychologist and philosopher,
in Facets of Unity


Q: What is right and what is wrong varies with habit and custom. Standards vary with societies.

M: Discard all traditional standards. Leave them to the hypocrites. Only what liberates you from desire and fear and wrong ideas is good. As long as you worry about sin and virtue you will have no peace.

Q: I grant that sin and virtue are social norms. But there may be also spiritual sins and virtues. I mean by spiritual the absolute. Is there such a thing as absolute sin or absolute virtue?

M: Sin and virtue refer to a person only. Without a sinful or virtuous person what is sin or virtue? At the level of the absolute there are no persons; the ocean of pure awareness is neither virtuous nor sinful. Sin and virtue are invariably relative.

~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981),
Indian mystic,
in I am That


This understanding of nonconceptual positivity is a very unusual idea, since ordinarily, and at the beginning of working on oneself, we think that there are things that are good and things that are bad. As we progress, we realize that this discrimination is only subjective, that dividing things into good and bad is arbitrary.

~ A.H. Almaas (1944-present),
American psychologist and philosopher,
in Facets of Unity


Tao is the source of the ten thousand things.

~ Lao Tsu (c.604 BC–c.521 BC),
Taoist philosopher ,
in the Tao Te Ching


All Nature is but Art unknown to thee;
All chance, direction which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear: Whatever is, is right.

~ Alexander Pope (1688-1744),
English poet and writer,
in Essay on Man


For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.

~ William Blake (1757-1827),
British poet,
in America: A Prophecy


Ema! Phenomena are, without exception,
Perfect within the continuum of self-arising rigpa [MN: awareness].

~ quoted by H. H. Dalai Lama (1935–present),
from “The Tantra that Brings Liberation Upon Contact”,
in Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection


Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.

~ Hafiz (circa 1310-1406),
Persian poet and Sufi master,
from “Now is the Time” in The Gift
translated by Daniel Ladinsky


There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

~ The character of Hamlet in Hamlet,
by William Shakespeare (1564-1616),
English playwright


In the mind of natural perfection, certainly, moral discrimination and moral causality do not exist, yet what remains is nondual “bodhichitta”, both the ground and the emanation of pure mind which can only ever be pure vision and perfect conduct.

~ Keith Dowman (1945-),
Contemporary Dzogchen teacher and Tibetan translator,
in Natural Perfection: Longchenpa’s Radical Dzogchen


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

~ Jellal ed-Din Rumi (1207-1273),
Persian poet and Sufi master,
from “A Great Wagon,” in The Essential Rumi


~ Note: If you have found these quotes to be supportive, you may be interested in my book How to Be Yourself: A Guide to Living an Authentic Life which contains more than 300 quotations such as these which are organized into different topics related to authenticity. The book is available on Amazon in print and ebook format. (See top right cover image for a link to more info). ~

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