Q. How can we do nothing?

Q. How can we do nothing?

A. Supposing you are asked what you did yesterday, how will you answer? You may say, “I didn’t do anything yesterday. I just took a rest all day.” Yes, you did something. You took a rest. That is what you did. I think you did a lot of things during your rest; you had meals, drank coffee and watched TV. You might say that you did nothing but sleep all day long. Yes, you still did something. You slept all day. That is what you did.

One more question. What are you doing now? You may say, “I am not doing anything now. I am just sitting.” Yes, you are doing something. You are sitting. That is what you are doing. You may say, “I am just lying in my bed.” Yes, you are lying in your bed. That is what you are doing. We seem to be doomed to keep doing something without stopping even for a moment as long as you are alive.

In fact, when ancient masters advised their students to do nothing, they never meant that they should do nothing or make no movement at all like a dead body, but told them to realise that all they did, whatever it was, was empty. In short, ‘You should do nothing’ means ‘You should realise that all your actions are empty’. Then, whatever you may do, you are doing nothing.

When all your actions are empty, the results of them are also empty. Then you won’t be too proud or attached when doing good or achieving great success, nor will you despair or be frustrated when experiencing failure. You, then, can enjoy your life as if you were watching a movie.

When you think that you did something good, after doing good to one of your friends in need, you can be proud of your act, and that will remain in your memory. Someday the situation reverses: you are in need and he is very well off. You may ask him for help, expecting him to pay you back for your help but he may turn down your request. How would you feel then? It is likely that you will feel more ashamed and even betrayed because of the memory of the former favour that you granted him. Even if he gives you help as you expect, you are likely to take his help for granted, and not to be as grateful to him for his help as to some other person whom you’ve never helped.



Your good act can bring you a negative result in this way. In the end, you can get hurt by the good deeds that you do. So, masters would say that doing a good thing is not as good as doing nothing. They, however, didn’t mean that we should not do good, but that we should realise that our good deeds are empty and not keep them in our memory.

We should not let even the right hand itself, not to mention the left hand, know what it does.

Don’t try to do nothing.
It will add yet another action.
How could you do nothing when not knowing how to do nothing?
How would it not be difficult to try to do something that you don’t know?
If you know that life is not different from death,
you can be said to do nothing even if you work hard all day with sweat dripping from your forehead
and wrestle all night with illusions.

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/wEGlG

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