Diligence and Discipline
Question from a good friend: "It would be great if you can elaborate on the reasons discipline and diligence are perfectly congruent with Tao and why indifference and apathy are not in keeping with the Tao as found in Chinese Culture."
Tao sages observe nature, note the way nature functions, then look for correspondence in daily life.
The ancient Chinese were an agrarian society, so their insights tend to come from that perspective. They note the way plants grow - a little bit every day, keeps going without pause, and although it is not possible to see much difference from one day to the next, over a time span of months it makes very definite progress. Over a time span of many years, a sapling becomes a mighty tree.
This is the pattern everywhere in nature. Events that seem quite sudden (perhaps lightning or volcanic eruption) are invariably the result of a gradual buildup of force. Far from being exceptions, they prove the rule.
As the plant grows, its growth is not subject to whim. That is, it doesn't only grow when it feels like growing. It grows consistently and it sustains this growth over a long period of time.
Is the plant taking contrived action in its growth? No, it is simply being itself, following its nature, fulfilling its potential.
Everything above is mirrored in a long journey (i.e. the journey of a thousand miles). The best way to take on this trip is steady progress, carried out at the natural rate of speed, which is not too fast and not too slow.
The important thing is being consistent. The fable we all know about the tortoise and the hare illustrates the exact same principle.
This pattern is also reflected in life. To achieve your purpose, go toward fulfilling your potential, whatever that may be for you, you also need to take myriad journeys of a thousand miles. Just like walking, the best way to proceed is one step at a time, slowly but surely. Before you know it, your dream becomes reality.
This is the mechanics of how "disciplined and diligent" gives you real, long-term, measurable benefits.
Again, let me emphasize the practical nature of the Chinese way of thinking. The ideal is achieving prosperity in every aspect of life: materially as well as spiritually. Chapter 1 clearly tells us the two are one and the same. Being rich but suffering from stress falls short of this ideal; in the same way, feeling at peace but not able to afford the good things in life you want - that is also falling short.
Reference: chapter 64 of TTC.