Regard your body as a vessel, A simple boat for going here and there. Make of it a thing that answers every wish To bring about the benefit of beings.
*Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva. Trans. The Padmakara Translation Group
The mother said she was not concerned that I was not Catholic, to go on and offer a rite for the dying, called by Catholics now Prayer for the Sick. I prepared, getting Prayer Book and oil and, first, praying alone. I reentered the room. The father and mother stood on the right, near side of the bed where lay their son. I moved to the left, far side. Shades were drawn, the room dusky.
I blessed the oil. Anointing, praying, following the Rite reverently and quietly. A sudden stream of inspiration ran through my body and quickly disappeared. Continuing, devoid of such feeling, I completed officiating the rite.
The parents expressed gratitude. I left after anointing and blessing them, too.
I learned again, and more thoroughly than before, the power of rite and ritual, and more broadly of doing any good, without reliance on feelings. The Work itself communicates It's own power, I only the instrument ~ the instrument cannot claim the song. And once I do any good, that is released into the Universe. How can I even claim it is mine? Absolutely, how could I say I did it?
* * *
I find an odd relief in the not-feeling of inspiration, in trusting the process of doing the good, devoid of dependence on sensations or sentiments that many would feel ought to be felt at such times. Yet, this body, through which inspiration does at times course when doing good, is only the vehicle, in words of my past faith tradition, a means of Grace. This body is one with the act itself, and the act is really action, or movement, happening timelessly in time, universally in specificity.
* * *
This body moves here and there, doing this and that, while will says "Yes." Yet, even the "Yes" does not arise from the body, and even the "Yes" can be 'spoken' apart from any inspiration to speak it. Within, the "Yes" and the act are not separate in time or expression. Often, the "Yes" never arises to the awareness of the body. Blessed are the times there is no sense of a doer, certainly no sense of needing reward or merit for the good participated in by being a co-creator.
* * *
I was raised with the promise from my native faith tradition, Christianity, that God would bless me for doing good for others and, later, Buddhism taught me that by doing good, I accumulate merit. In the Christian way, I would be blessed in this life and, likewise, the extent of my rewards in heaven after death would correspond to the good I did before death. Some even spoke of our having a crown with jewels, the jewels representing good deeds. In the Buddhist way of accumulating merit, I would negate past karma and move closer to removal from the cycle of rebirth, closer to nirvana. In a more attractive Buddhist teaching, I was informed to devote merit to the good of all beings, denying myself the merit for myself. I was told a Bodhisattva does this, she or he delays nirvana until all beings are free of the cycle of rebirth. Thankfully, through living with the Silence, the ideas and wish for reward or merit for good fell away, I came to have no interest in either. I have no desire for anything outside the pure act itself and its continuing blessing as a single movement of Spirit in time. So, no reward, no merit, which, to me, sounds too much like a commercialized view of faith or spirituality, a bargaining with deity or life.
If blessing arises toward my own self, it is one with the blessing of the other, the blessing of all, for there is no private blessing. As for the idea of reward, I find nothing attractive about the concept, indeed, that to think of being rewarded for the act of doing good for someone subtracts me from the pure act of loving itself. And loving is giving, to say one is to say the other.
The blessing most blessing is in the act of the expression of Grace itself. This even as the music is one with the instrument in the moment, the intimacy, of the two meeting to create music.
* * *
Why these conclusions? As the Work is not ours, neither is the "Yes" ours. In intimacy with Grace, both Work and "Yes" belong to Grace and move through the body as gift, as choiceless benefaction, even before the act itself. That that is, that becomes.
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