Action and Non-Action

Once upon a time, there lived a young man who desired to achieve quick progress in life. He went to a wise sage and expressed his wish. The sage smiled, and gave him two coins and advised him to drop them one after another to achieve his goal.

The youth was overjoyed at the prospect of achieving success so easily, and ran away before the sage could give him any more advise. He dropped the first coin at a particular place, and Lo! A beautiful chariot appeared. The word “Action” was etched onto the chariot. The young man jumped onto the chariot and immediately, it began to shoot into space at a terrific pace. It was then that he realized that it did not have a steering wheel!

For a while the youth like the speed and the travel, but gradually, he became a bit nervous. Where was he going? When would he reach the destination? The young man could not find the answers to these questions, and began to panic.

While he was frantically searching for a escape from this predicament, he found a small button with the word “Stop” on it. He pressed it, hoping to stop the chariot. Immediately the vehicle stopped, and dropped to the ground. The young man jumped out of it and heaved a sigh of relief.

The young man was exhausted by the trip and rested for a while. After he had regained his hope and energy, he dropped the second coin to the ground, to see what it would do. Like before, a chariot appeared in front of him. This chariot had the word “Inaction” etched onto it. Less apprehensive now, the young man jumped onto the chariot.

The youth was totally surprised by what happened next. The chariot stood still, but everything around him was revolving at a great speed and nothing was clear to him. The moving panorama around him was making him dazed and quite restless.

When he could stand it no longer, he again began looking for a way to escape. To his relief, he found the “Stop” button, and he pressed it with great hope. The revolving panorama stopped suddenly and he immediately jumped out of the chariot. He ran to the sage who had given him the coins and began complaining that he could not achieve any progress in his life with those coins.

“My dear fellow,” said the sage, “most young people suffer like you. Everyone wants progress and thinks that by unceasing activity, they can achieve it. Some others think the opposite. But action alone does not result in progress, nor does inaction.”

“All actions or non-actions,” said the sage, “should be inspired by a purpose, follow a procedure, and strive with perseverance. The should find support in reason and sustenance in reasonableness. When these guidelines coupled with discretion, promote action or non-action, they lead to worldly success as well as spiritual progress.”

This story helps one understand that either action or non-action without purpose and perseverance, is just like a rudderless ship.

In the coming year, let our actions and non-actions be inspired by a sense of service and let us persevere with our commitment to create a better world for all!

Adapted from Tales for the Young and Old by Acharya Ratnananda

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