Related to a previous post, I wanted to separate out another important aspect of a recent talk I had with some precious souls. In this meeting with other spiritual pupils, I raised the topic of non-involvement (Wu Wei). What follows is my own ideas and some responses I received from others.
This post is going to first discuss Non Involvement, then the merit of Involvement and finally look at a Synthesis between the two polar views.
Wu Wei (Non Involvement)
When I heard the concepts of Wu Wei (non-involvement) from last month’s lecture by the Spiritual School, my thoughts drifted to some personal events that seemed involvement was required.
I heard the monthly lecture (which discussed Wu Wei) the day of the Texas massacre, where many children were killed at an elementary school. Even now, that event tears at me when I think about it. I think about the little lives looking forward to summer vacation, parents waiting to pick up their kids later that day, only to bury them a week later. It hurts me. It hurts me to even think of the shooter having to chose this path.
Without getting into the situation of Texas, there is an issue from my families past. My oldest brother told me about an event 10 years before I was born – where my grandparents (on my mom’s side) were visiting. They were seated at a dinning room table, ready to eat dinner, and our grandmother made a comment – which bothered her husband. In front of everyone he hit her across the face with the back of his hand. My brother said that my parents did nothing. They continued serving the food like nothing happened. Knowing my parents, this is all too real of a reaction. They rarely got involved in anything that required confrontation.
Questions Raised – Opinions Offered
Both of these stories I raised to the others who listened. Some stated that if we see something wrong, we must engage to prevent it. Other’s emphasized non-involvement. One asked me what could have been done if my parents engaged the angry grandfather at the dinning room table. Could there have been any positive gain?
Krishna and non Involvement
When I was a Buddhist, my lama told a morality story (not found in the Gita) that Hindu’s sometimes tell their children. It goes like this, “Once Arjuna was traveling the roads looking for Krishna. One day he found him. He devoted himself to Krishna, vowing to never leave his side. After some time, Arjuna saw some smoke on the horizon, and walked off the trail to see a village on fire. Running to help, he put out the fire, only to then see marauders attacking. He defended the village from the marauders, and then the floods came, so he built a defense against the rising water. Challenge after challenge came, and Arjuna remained, for all the ‘good reasons.’ Years passed, and Arjuna was now an old man in the village. He hears a knock at his door, opens it to see Krishna. In that instant he was brought back to the path, realizing how easy it is to leave it.”
The moral here, is that no matter what you do in this world, the world will offer you more challenges to fight. There is never an end.
Jesus and non involvement
At the time of Jesus, Rome engaged in bloody colosseum games. Families were sometimes thrown to gladiator pit to be butchered. Animals, people – all fighting to the death – as a form of entertainment. Yet at no time did Jesus preach against it. Nor did Jesus preach against Roman wars and general governance. Instead Jesus taught people to, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and that the real Kingdom of God is “within you,” and not “out there.” So why fight for the temporary material world that “moth and rust corrupts?”
That temporary realm beyond the veil, where entities invest their energy and influence in the world of mortal people is called the reflection-sphere. Their motives, perhaps unclear, create a growing polarization in the material world. Taking part in that aspect, prevents one from exiting the cycle of return. It is the eternal trap of Maya and an important aspect of material involvement.
As reflection-sphere entities engage in the world to create events of outrage and drama – it sucks people in, like Arjuna, walking off the path to partake in a material world at the sake of the spiritual.
The Merit of Involvement
While there are good reasons to not get involved, and we have teachings of Jesus offering examples of non involvement (Wu Wei), there are opposite examples as well. As it turns out Jesus did get involved.
The woman caught in adultery
When the woman was caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), men were poised to kill her – Jesus discovering this, prevented the killing by challenging each to judge themselves first. Had he not got involved the woman would have died and the men would have added negative actions (karma) to their future.
Healing the injured
In John 5:1-18, we have a story of Jesus coming across a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years. Jesus, discovering the man and his plight, heals him. Not only does he get involved, he gets involved on the Sabbath to do so (considered a sin to work on the Sabbath).
Feeding the 5,000
In Matthew 14:13-21 we have a story of Jesus taking it upon himself to feed the hungry. In this case it was 5,000 people.
Instructions to Help Others
Perhaps the most evidence is in the direct teachings from Jesus. Consider Matthew 25: 31-45. This is sometimes called the “Separation of the Sheep from the Goats” message. The message is about “King” returning to rejoice for those who fed him when he was hungry, clothed him when he was in need… they ask when “King” was this way, and he replies, “when you did it to the least of these, you did it unto me.”
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’Matthew 25:35-36
I could go on and on – Jesus’ ministry was filled with helping others. His work was a one-off either, as he gave instructions for others to follow in like manner. To not care for themselves, but to care for others. That care and concern establishing help to the needy and yet Jesus didn’t get involved in the larger issues. He was silent on politics, Roman government, and blood sports.
We have two extremes presented: non-involvement and involvement. A famous quote is provided and while the quote below is falsely attributed to Burke, it still has a power of its own:
For evil to triumph, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.Possibly John Stuart Mill
If one witness a crime, and does nothing, do they not become a partaker in the crime? I write not about legally taking part in the crime, but ethically, morally and spiritually. There is a soul tarnish to doing nothing, while knowing allowing another to be harmed.
I think a common reason for non-involvement is fear. My father never gave to the homeless asking him for change, because he was attached to his money. For an individual to say, “Stop! It is not right for you to strike your wife like this,” requires a level of confrontation. Sometimes people don’t know how they would respond to a reaction, that fear prevents them from acting. Such action can evoke a slap from the perpetrator – or it could end years of abuse for the victim.
Revisiting Wu Wei
A pupil in the meeting referred to Wu Wei as involvement without involvement – as getting involved without attachment. That is in fact how the Tao te Ching describes work….
The Master has but doesn’t possess,Tao Te Ching Chapter 2
acts but doesn’t expect.
When the Master’s work is done, they forget it.
That is why it lasts forever.
The source of Wu Wei (Tao Te Ching) isn’t proportion to “do nothing.” Rather it is saying the true Master acts in such a way that the work lasts forever – this is by non attachment. Described above, a Master is doing Wu Wei when they act without attachment.
Revisiting Jesus and Krishna
Jesus both is involved and not involved in helping others. While he didn’t get involved in the affairs of Roman government (he didn’t try to “make Rome great again”), nor did he condemn the gladiator games, or executions, Jesus did prevent the execution of a woman he came across. He also fed the hungry, healed the sick and met the needs of any who came into his life. Not only did he do these things, he commanded his disciples to do likewise.
Regarding Karma – Hinduism and Buddhism teach to get involved to stop conflict – not only to defend the weak, but to help the aggressor as well. Each seen as victims of karma. Loving all, both need be protected through their involvement – this they call “skillful means.”
Individual vs. Collective Helping
Digging deeper, the help that Jesus and other Holy leaders have committed to was done at the individual level. This is a difficult task, as it requires much courage. One is standing on their own to confront the problem at hand.
Many people do not confront at an individual level. Instead they prefer to work with a group. Protestors are a great example of this. Working in concert with others, they have a collective mind (egregore) that drives their intentions and creates a collective courage.
Collective work, such as political or any materialistic group, is more embedded with the material sphere. Individual effort, however, can be sourced directly from a spiritual motivation. This isn’t always the case, but spiritual motivation is hard to process in a materialist group mind. It can only exist at the individual layer of existence.
Led by the Spirit
No matter what the choice, the direction one moves must be guided by the Higher Self, the Holy Spirit… God. Without that directive, there is little chance of success. One’s motives are the determinant. Is the motive