“If you pursue an end you enchain yourself. If everything you do is realized as an end in itself you liberate yourself.“
Principle of Valid Action Seven. Immediate Action. Week 1. The Milkmaid’s Tale
Last time: A Look Ahead
This time: A New Way of Doing
Perhaps after meditating on this principle in general you can provide us with a new version that illustrates at least some aspect of it. Perhaps you can also give it a name that captures something of its focus. Or how about an illustrative very short story, saying, image, or joke.
This week we will look at the basic structure of the principle 7, the principle of immediate action. We will consider its general meaning, and broad implications. We’ll also consider some observations about, and illustrations of, the principle in general.
Along with our effort to delve deeply into this principle we are always trying to amplify our vision of how we can turn the principles in general into a dynamic and permanent meditation. That is to say, into a practice applicable at every moment of our lives. In that way we go on shaping a style of, or way of, engaging with life.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
This principle can be seen as a more general case of Principle 6, the Principle of Pleasure. This time however the suggestion is not limited to the pursuit of pleasure, but rather the pursuit of ends in general. It is important to note that 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 that loss and the suffering connected to those steps.
The earliest variant of this story I can find seems to be drawn from the Indian collection called the Panchatantra – though thematically similar it’s not about a milkmaid as in our version. But in whatever form his tale can 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 end totally out of touch with their present situation.
The Milkmaid’s Tale
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 Little Moon. When he is a 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 tell 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.
Sometimes meditation requires you sit down and close your eyes — but that’s less than half the story:
“…It is clear that it isn’t a matter of indifference what actions one carries out in the world. There are actions that give one a register of internal unity, and actions that give a register of disintegration.”
Silo, Psychology Notes III
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.
This document is meant as a support for our practice of focusing on one of the 12 Principles of Valid Action each month. These principles appear in chapter XIII of Silo’s The Inner Look. Next week we will continue with principle 7 focusing on how it may relate to our present situations.