Taking Action

I got tired of school in college because it seemed like all we were talking about things and I wanted to take action. What better organization to join than Americorps who’s slogan was “Getting things done.” I’ve joined many organizations and groups to promote positive change with mixed results. Sometimes I felt like I made a difference. Sometimes I didn’t. It was always hard for me to pinpoint what was actually helping and what was just making me feel better about myself for volunteering my time.

Vipassana is my most recent cause and so far I do think it helps but some of its values make me wonder how to take action. We talk about the 10 paramis (or positive inner qualities) and are told that our past paramis are what brought us to this teaching. With my horrendous track record for convincing people to take a ten day course I’m happy to pass the responsibility off to the paramis but then what? If I accept that when the time is right for someone to receive dhamma they will, what’s the point of trying?

Then I take note of how many volunteers it takes to run one of these centers. Just like other non-profits I’ve worked for there always seems to be more work than hands so should I help recruiting more volunteers? No because servers should be coming on their own volition to help. That’s the way they develop their paramis. So I should just overwork myself because I have the volition to do so? Maybe we’re just supposed to depend on the inspirational qualities to take care of everything but is sure seems like a bulk of the labor is falling on small number of ambitious dhamma workers. Of course, having said all of this, more and more centers are popping up all around the world so the current model is working. I just don’t really understand why or how it’s supposed to work.

Another specific example that bothered me was when I wiped off my face and accidentally fatily wounded a fly. My first though was to kill it so it would no longer suffer but then I realized I’m not supposed to kill anything. This made me start thinking about horses with broken legs and humans being kept alive with various medical machines. Is it really not the right thing to help these living beings die? If someone had an excruciatingly painful fatal disease should we not feed them pain killers and sleeping pills? I’m not sure whether it’s better to force someone to observe their pain or just help it go away. These medical dilemmas are endless and interesting and I’m not sure how dhamma is teaching me to handle it.

I want to help and I don’t know how. Sometimes I want to trust the undercurrent of dhamma to mold things the way their supposed to be and sometimes I feel I’ve lost all compassion and empathy doing so. I guess I’ve got a lot more meditation to do before I gain clarity on this subject.


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