Be independent of results

(… continued from ‘The yoga of action’!)

The next point: to be able to act and to be independent of the results. Now this again is not so easy to understand. “If I don’t care about the results, I’ll just do things badly.” But that isn’t doing them. If my job is to clean the floor, and I think, “Oh, well, I’m independent of the results, so I’ll just clean it and I’ll leave some stains,” that isn’t cleaning.  Shankara makes this point.  “As a man who is passionately attached to the world, as he does his actions, so should the wise man act – abhiyukta – efficiently, but without being bound by the results.”  If it fails, he can keep his values. If it succeeds, then much more difficult. He can keep his values – not to be calling attention, but to succeed and then forget.  We’re asked to practice these things in very small ways. To become independent of the result.

The Chinese, who believe in teaching with a sense of humour, they say this: “When you do a virtuous deed, don’t cough!”  When I put a gold coin in the collection bowl (cough!) – “You’re all putting coppers.”  “Don’t cough when you do a virtuous deed.”  Well, it’s a useful phrase to remember. It’s not so easy, when one’s done well – we’ll clap a little bit: applause!  “If they’re not clapping, well, then I’ll clap myself.”  This is a very important point.

They say not to wait for dramatic moments to practice these things, but to practice them in the ordinary way. He tries very hard and he fails. The archer is an example that is given. Archery was one of the six accomplishments of the Confucian, the superior man.  But when aiming perfectly, a sudden gust of wind carries the arrow off the path. A perfect shot and then you get this gust that you can’t anticipate.  We know what happens when we do that. “Oh, for goodness sake!”

A Jesuit father told me when he was finishing his novitiate (that is, he would go into the Order shortly) he was given a big stone floor to clean.  He said, “As I rose from my knees, the Master of Novices came in with a half bucket of sludge and threw it over this stone floor and then said, “Clean it.”

Well, such things happen not only in Jesuit training centres, but they can happen all over the world.  It’s also to be remembered that this is equally a test of the man who throws the sludge. Unless he’s free himself, he can’t test the freedom of others or train them to be free. There are people who fancy that they are training others spiritually, when all they’re doing is giving them hell and enjoying it. He must be free himself – then he can apply such a penance or give such a severe training.

To become somehow independent of the result, to be able to work very hard and to see it, perhaps viciously kicked to pieces in front of one’s eyes, and then to be able to look up and see a friend – meditate on the Lord as the friend of all beings.  “Well, why do you let this happen?”   As Judo was mentioned, I’ll just say this. When you get to, what’s called, a black belt – which is the first graduation and it’s much desired by people who are studying – well, when you get it, this is the big thrill in a whole Judo career.   The first time you knot that belt.  We generally take a photograph, if we can, of the man and he’s got his black belt on. Well, when you have this experience you know that’s just the beginning.

Sometimes the experience goes to his head and they have a system in the training halls when this happens.  He has to be brought back to earth.  The experts (there is very little bullying in the Judo hall, unlike some sports) they have very strong fights against their own level but not against the weaker player. But the higher skilled people, they take on this chap and they absolutely smash him.  They go out absolutely exhausted and then the next one comes. He is given a real pasting, and it can be quite a shock.  Then the expression changes. Now, it can be quite frightening – all sorts of things of thoughts come into his mind. “I’ve got a black belt. Are they trying to injure me because they’re jealous? They don’t want me among the black belts. Are they trying to keep the numbers down?” 

Now, it can be quite frightening, but if he looks, by chance perhaps, at the end of the hall and he has seen the teacher standing there watching.  The teacher is watching, he simply stands. When he sees that, he knows that what’s taking place is being watched, is being controlled. He knows it’s only just so far. He knows it’s not a viciousness, it’s not a jealousy. It’s part of his training.

Now, in the same way we are asked in these very difficult situations in life, when something we’ve worked for, or tried for, is smashed and broken, to look up and we will see the friend.  And we know that what’s taking place is taking place under the inspection, under the direction, under the control of a friend.  It’s not so easy to realise, but this is one of the exercises in karma yoga.

© Trevor Leggett

(Continued in ‘Direct practice of meditation on the Lord’)

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Extroverts & Introverts 1

Part 2: The yoga of action

Part 3: Be independent of results

Part 4: Direct practice of meditation on the Lord