Right Action

Can I only be successful by keeping busy? Sometimes I feel like we perceive the people who do the most or produce the most as the most successful people. For example, if I’m in charge of running a factory and I figure out how to produce twice as many goods for no additional cost, I would be praised and given a raise. But what if the product I’m producing is actually harmful to the world? What if the idea that more production is better is simply wrong? In this case, the person who chooses to do nothing would be more wholesome than the person producing the most. If we paid people according to how much they contributed to humanity, we would be paying an unemployed single individual more than the CEO of a corporation. This is based on a new assumption that this corporation is producing harmful products and people which may be a false premise.

So how do we know if our actions are wholesome or not? For a meditator, the answer may be to follow your precepts and listen to your meditation, but what about for non meditators? What would help them choose a wholesome path? What if all the options for work are unwholesome and you need an income to provide for yourself and your family? When I analyze our society from afar, it feels like we’re off course. Many of our actions bring harm to the people around us, but our societal structure mandates it. So how do we change the course?

I wonder if we need to experience a period of simply discontinuing our harmful actions. The goal wouldn’t be to develop anything new. We would simply be trying to untangle all the knots that have already been tied. The solution I tend to hear about include transforming the system we have into something else, but can we transform anything properly until we fully understand why we need change? Can we build something positive before we torn everything down to a wholesome foundation? It’s strange for me to think about doing nothing as the most wholesome act I can perform, but it might just be. Time to meditate.

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About Ryan Shelton

In March of 2010 I discovered a path to peace and happiness through a 10-day Vipassana meditation course in the tradition of S.N. Goenka. After establishing my personal practice, and witnessing how it changed my way of life, I'm now curious to explore how the growing community of meditators can help to support each other and make the world a better place.
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