Open to the Light
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A seeker asked the Sage, "Will I be rewarded for my good deeds when I get to heaven?" The Sage answered, "Act in love with no thought of either heaven or reward, and you'll enjoy heaven now." "What do you mean?" responded the seeker. "Do it," said the Sage, "and you'll see."
Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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Emperor Wu, who ruled China 141-87 BCE, asked Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism in China, how much merit the latter had gained by building temples all over the country. Bodhidharma replied, "None whatsoever."
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Sri Krishna, the charioteer of Arjuna, a warrior, instructs him, in The Bhagavad Gita 2.47ff -
You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga [lit., union] is perfect evenness of mind.
*Eknath Easwaran. The Bhagavad Gita. Chapter introductions, Diane Morrison.
Sri Krishna notes the result of being attached to rewards. The loss is "evenness of mind," or tranquility, contentment.
Why does one lose this quietude? One is not "established within" oneself. One with the act, one is one with oneself; a split does not fragment her between the deed and anticipation of reward. The Buddhist teacher, Uchiyama Roshi (1912-1988), says it this way as to meditation: "Cast off everything and just sit, making the self into the self." In dividing the self by anticipation of merit, we diminish the self - unbecoming the self. We increase the self in detachment from reward. We and the act are one doing.
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For theists, the union of self and act is union with God. The oneness of God is known in the harmony of actor and action in God. In being one with oneself, one is one with Spirit. So, to enjoy oneness with God, enjoy oneness with that you do - do not split off into a thought of personal gain. You may gain or lose by acts. Who knows? Regardless of outcome, the joy is in the act first.
If one acts rightly and loses thereby, why is there need for regret? If one acts rightly and gains thereby, why is there need for any sense of personal gain? Loss and gain do not have to be personal, even if they are often thought to be so.
Anyway, God does not owe you anything for what you do. You are best to forget any reward, also, after this life. Then, you can act in disinterested love. And you find the blessing of acting is the acting. You discover the Sacrament of the Present Moment is with what you do now, so doing becomes a means of Grace without an intention it be or become such. You become like the Sun blessing Earth with light and warmth without intent to do so. And the Sun does not anticipate any reward for this offering of itself. And, in disinterested love, your offering is self-offering; yet, you lose nothing of yourself. Instead, you are enhanced in self-giving.
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*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.
*Uchiyama Roshi quote from Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence: A Christian Zen Master.