Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The action of non-action.


“To act” presumes one who acts. It would be absurd to speak of action otherwise. Action must therefore consider the source—this actor doing the acting to understand action. In a normal sense action entails the will (volition) the capability of conscious choice to do one thing and deny another. And that volition is a reflection; the vote of the actor. To say “I want” is an expression of such a will—the desire preceding action. But we must take a serious look at how we understand this one who acts in order to explore the motive.

In Buddhism (as well as Taoism) this matter is taken seriously. We all have a sense-of-self (the actor) which is constantly agitated, wounded and hungry. There is never enough to fill the belly of this actor nor fences tall enough to guard what the self possesses. The ego is never satisfied.

The Forty-Eighth stanza of the Tao Te Ching says:

“In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.”

Compare this to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:26-27...

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

These views came from different times and places yet they speak of the same dimension of faith—trust that our lives are important and not lacking in any substantial way. Lao Tsu understood the source of ultimate self as the Tao. Jesus understood that same source as “your heavenly father” but they were speaking of the same well-spring: The source of non-action which functions through our being. We (our bodies and our minds) are the arms and legs of the Tao/Our heavenly father. And when our action is thus centered, our action will not be our own. Lao Tsu referred to this as wu-wei or non-action since the will of ego is not involved.
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