Determining Right Action

Right Action

Right action can be the wrong way without skillfulness

Right Action is a critical part of the Eightfold Path that the Buddha passed on to us. But often, the word “Right” can seem too finite and specific. And although the word appropriate may seem like a better term to us, appropriate would actually be inaccurate in relation to Buddha’s teaching. I do believe that there is a Right Action for every situation, but often it can seem very unclear and frustrating. Like me, many of us can have great difficulty determining the right action for complicated and grave situations. This becomes especially true when they are critical concerns about the life, safety, or health of someone we love and care for. Easily our compassionate nature compels us to do “something”. And this is because our minds perceive compassion as something which requires action to validate itself. But sometimes compassion can be achieved with no words or actions at all, but through complete acceptance and loving-kindness. The validation part is truly just our own ego at work.

Each person and situation is unique, and often this calls for a very different approach. None of us can make a blanket statement about the best avenue for dealing with each and every situation. Your sibling is not like my sibling, your spouse in not like my spouse, and each of our children is a unique and special human being with their own thoughts, feelings and character. And the only way to address these individual people is by accepting that they are in fact unique, as is their situation and circumstances. With my first suggestion being to drop our ego about it. This can be the biggest road-block for all of us, having to remove “I” from the equation. Because typically our mind perceives love as something of an attachment, with ownership to some degree of the other person. Thinking “you are my Son” or “my Sister” is only the beginning of an unskillful path and one that is truly not a compassionate one. Our minds begin to think about what “I” want you to do, and what “I” think is best for you. None of which is very wholesome and really mostly about you and your desires to control someone else. How very easily we then forget how this call to action even began. Our ego and desires now spearhead the forces of the mind that feel extremely righteous and benevolent. This only serve to furnish fuel for the fires in your mind. Keep feeding those delusions and I assure you the flames will only fan higher and higher.

Right Action has to come about through observation, understanding, virtue and wisdom. And quite often this does not occur as quickly as one would like. Meditation is ideally suited for this practice and allowing clarity to arise naturally and lovingly. And this does not mean that we sit with these dilemmas in meditation and rehash the question over and over. This would be the exact opposite of putting out the fires in your mind. Meditation should always be about the silent observer. Watching your breath, with each breath being one filled with mindful awareness and acceptance. Breathing in lovingly, breathing out lovingly. And having no expectation that when you have completed your meditation that some “Right” answer will finally reveal itself. Allow things to be just as they are. For without the acceptance and understanding of this essential truth, we are in no position to offer counsel or direction to any other human being regardless of our love for them.

May peace be with you, and with all beings in the ten directions.

  • http://postsfromthepath.com/ Tyler

    GREAT discussion. I remember the day after I took the precepts– that first night I was so proud, so happy. the next day, when I finally had time on the cushion to reflect on the first 24 hours with this renewed “commitment”… I discovered I had lied big time. It was such a revolation to me, the recognition that right action is downright hard. I had thought , this will be easy, I’m a good person, no problem here— but that was not the case AT ALL. The only thing that has ever, ever helped is constant, rigorous practice.
    THANKS