Principle 7 Immediate Action 1

Principle 7, first week

Each month we focus one of the 12 Principles of Valid Action. These can be found in Chapter 13 of the book, The Inner Look. Each week we look at a different aspect of that principle. The Principle we chose to consider this week is #7 from chapter 13 of the book (The Inner Look). It is also called “The Principle of Immediate Action” it says: “If You Pursue An End You Enchain Yourself. If Everything You Do Is Realized As An End In Itself You Liberate Yourself.”

We take the time to think and talk about each principle, not just in order to understand it in itself, but also to begin to reflect more rigorously about our behaviour. These principles, or guidelines, or however you think of them are elements that we can form into a discipline which can be practiced at every moment and in every circumstance. They are a kind of dynamic meditation. With time and application these efforts will give all my activities a particular tone, mood, and mental direction. Our goal is to weave these general ideas that you can weave together into a coherent style of life.

In the next weeks we’ll look at how we applied, or could have applied, this principle in the past, how we apply this principle in the present moment, and how we have might apply it in the future. Here are some general considerations about this principle. In order to illustrate various aspects of the principles I’ve drawn ideas from conversations with various people, as well as from materials we created over the years. If I can know who to credit for these contributions I will.

Here’s some ideas about and reflections on this principle with the hope that they aid in your own reflections. I’ve drawn them largely from conversations with various people as well as from materials we created over the years to illustrate various aspects of the principles. I’m sorry that in most cases I can’t credit specific individuals for their contributions but if I can I will. Like these illustrations which are the work of Rafael Edwards.

This principle is a more general case of Principle 6, the Principle of Pleasure. But this time the suggestion is not limited to the pursuit of pleasure but rather the pursuit of ends in general. On the other hand, it does not suggest that we have no goals. Planning any activity requires goals. Rather, the Principle of Immediate Action reminds us that we should learn to benefit from all the intermediate steps or situations that lead to our goals. It points out that whatever these steps or stages we should learn to enjoy them, appreciate them, or at least approach them in the most positive way possible.

In any other way those steps become a burden, a bore, an irritant or a source of some other form of suffering. Once that happens then even if the goal is attained it loses meaning because of the vital loss represented by the suffering vested in those steps.

The earliest variant of this story seems to be found the Indian collection called the Panchatantra – though thematically similar it’s not about a milkmaid. But in whatever form his tale may help us to understand this Principle by illustrating what happens when a person becomes so focused on their goals that they do not take the intermediate steps into account and become totally out of touch with their present situation.

There was once a milkmaid who was walking to market with a large jug of fresh milk balanced on her head. As she made her way to sell her milk she thought to herself: “Here I have a jug of the freshest, finest milk. Now milk is always a good thing but it has become more precious than ever since the weather has been so bad, the harvest has been terrible, the cattle, the goats, and sheep have been of very poor health and milk is in short supply. I bet I’ll be able to sell my beautiful beverage for at least 100 rupees. With that sum I will be able to buy a he goat and a she goat and every 6 months I’ll have more goats. I’ll sell some of them and buy a bull and a cow then twice a year I’ll have more cattle as well as more goats. Then I’ll sell some of the calves and buy horses and water buffalo. The horses will give many foals and I’ll sell some of them and have more gold than I’ll know what to do with so I’ll buy a big house with a large courtyard and a handsome young suitor will come to my house and fall in love with me and we will be married. We will have a beautiful son and name him Chandi. When he is a little older he will come running to me but come to close to the stallions. Oh I will be so mad. I’ll call his father to come and move them to a distant corral. But he will not hear me and I’ll have to go and kick the servant to do my bidding. And as she thought this she stumbled against a rock that she had not seen, so lost was she in her reverie. The milk jug on her head teetered and fell, crashing to the ground and spilling every last drop of its precious fluid.

These notes have been sent to the email list of The Community of Silo’s Message Toronto Annex, and posted on Facebook, as well as on my blog at

We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.