Responsibility (as an aspect of conviction)

Today we are looking at Responsibility as an aspect of Conviction.

If we want to achieve something, we need to first make a definite decision and take responsibility for doing what is required to achieve that goal.

Perhaps you want an xbox 360, then you might have to be prepared to work every Saturday for 4 months to earn the money to pay for it. Maybe you want to pass an exam, then you have to be prepared to study. Perhaps you want to be able to play the piano, then you have to make the definite decision that you are prepared to practice every day.

Or maybe we want to be better people, then we have to be prepared to give up our selfish habits and our usual run of excuses.

These are examples of taking responsibility.

There was a Zen Buddhist teacher in the United States called Kobun Chino who used to say that some people like the idea of Zen because they think it is just ideas. But he explained that to really follow Zen you had to try every day to see your weaknesses, and to take responsibility and do something about them.

Abdullah says that at some point we should each make a definite choice whether or not to take on this Work in a proper way, rather than just drift along.

He also says that we should remember that this Work is the third force of the Sun which is God and that once we commit ourselves and keep working away, then it is there for you all of the time.

Both of today’s stories are from the teachings of the American Indians.

            [Retold Carlos Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan – Chapter: Taking Responsibility]

There was a young man of the Yaqui Indian nation who lived on the streets of the city. He had left his family and friends behind in the country to go to the city to make his fortune, but so far he had remained poor and had learned to steal and beg to survive.

One day he went to the market and although he had no money to buy anything, he was so busy staring at all of things for sale that he didn’t watch where he was going and tripped over an old man. This made the young man angry, but when he saw that the old man was carrying four large bags he thought that he might be able to get something to eat, so he offered to help the old man carry the bags.

The old man took the road out of the town and as they walked he gave the young man some food. When the young man had eaten he began to notice how heavy his load was and so he asked what was in the bags. The old man said, don’t worry about that, I am going to show you something that can lift your sorrows and teach you wisdom.

Then the old man summoned a shining deer that came to him, and the young man realised it was a spirit deer. The old man said if you want this deer to help you and teach you wisdom, all you have to do is give the bags back to me.

First tell me what is in the bags, said the young man. Only food, the old man said.

But the young man thought to himself if this old wizard was willing to give him a spirit deer to get his bags back, they must contain something very powerful. So he took the bags and ran and ran until he found a hiding place, and then he sat down and opened them.

Inside he found only food. Cursing the old man for tricking him, he smashed the food against the rocks.

Abdullah says that when we start out we need to come to a realisation along the lines of “My body is running me and I do not like that” – He says that this might be an idea you have, or you might have an emotional horror of the body being in charge. Once we face up to this situation, then you can make some plans about what you’re going to do about it.

The second story is also from the American Indian teaching

A teenage boy lived with his grandfather on a farm, and once a year his father would come to spend a month with them. As soon as he arrived he would lecture his son on the need to be tough and physically active. Then every evening the father would make plans to go swimming with his son at sunrise the next morning.

Each morning when the sun rose, the father would jump out of bed and look at the sky and say it was a bit cloudy, and that he was just going to lie down for a few minutes before they set off. Then he would fall asleep and not wake up again until very late in the morning. The boy got very annoyed each time this happened. He is so weak he would tell himself, he lives in a world where none of his ideals are put into action.

Years later he was telling all of this to a wise old man.

Why didn’t you go swimming at sunrise by yourself? The old man asked. You had planned to go swimming after all.

No I never really planned to go swimming. I just played along. I always knew he was too weak to go.

Why didn’t you just say that instead of agreeing to go then? The old man asked.

I couldn’t talk to my father like that. All my life I have had to deal with people like him who let me down.

You are complaining the old man said because you won’t accept responsibility for your decisions. If you had accepted responsibility for your decision to swim at sunrise, you would have swum at sunrise with or without your father. Or if you had accepted responsibility for your decision not to swim you would have told him right from the start. But you didn’t accept responsibility for anything.

Swami Ramdas of Kerala says: “Do not blame karma or anybody else for what you are. You can undo what has been done, through the exercise of a firm and determined will.”

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