Letting Good Things Happen

Letting Good Things Happen

A beautiful Tao concept shows how nonaction is the greatest action sometimes.

The emperor of China during the Yuan dynasty wanted to have his picture painted. “I am not satisfied with my portraits done thus far,” he said to a large gathering of artists. “Paint me a picture with the minutest detail, my spitting image.” The king sat down every day for two hours while the finest painters observed and painted him from different angles. Devotedly and carefully they moved their pencils and brushes on their canvases. Vying for the reward, all would wrangle to have the front row so they could  examine him thoroughly and capture the tiniest details. All but a Taoist monk-painter. 

He requested that the king give him a separate room where he could construct his most accurate image from his memory. “Kill me if I fail to portray every detail,” he declared.

“But, no one will see my painting till I finish. This is my only condition.” His request was granted, and three of his disciples joined in to help him. The four of them would enter the

room, stay there for the entire day and come out only in the evening. At times, sounds of scraping etc. could be heard. Unlike the other painter's  hands, theirs were never smeared in colour. Dusty at times, but never smudged.

No one knew how exactly they were painting. At the end of one month when the emperor was still not happy with any of the portraits by other artists, the Taoist master announced that his painting was complete. It was done on a wall, he added. Eager and intrigued, the the king entered the room brimming with silence. The wall was covered with drapes of silk. Some candles were placed strategically. The master was gently smiling. The monarch pulled the curtain and a glossy wall emerged. On a super smooth surface, which had been once a coarse wall, the reflection of the emperor shone gloriously. A smile broke out on the king's face, the image smiled as well. The king turned to the left, so did the image. It was a moving portrait, a live painting that captured every detail. “This is the way of Tao, your Honour. The action of non-action.” “I must admit,” the emperor chuckled, “this is very clever. It's the most accurate image anyone could have created.” 

“With due respect, I never created this image. I merely created the conditions and the portrait made itself.” “Not sure if I should reward you for your painting or your wisdom.” The emperor honoured him with lavish compensation.


So it is with life. Whatever we want, we have to create the conditions for it. In our obsessions to realise our dreams, we often end up so focussed, even self centered, that we forget that until we create the right environment around us, we cannot truly attain our goals. In our reckless pursuits, our conditions become our greatest impediments on the path. Do you want harmony in your life? Create a setting that fosters it. Want love? Work on the attitude that  evokes it. Want success? Manifest the conditions that support it. Results are not created, they come by themselves. What we create are the conditions conducive to what we hope to attain. The Tao concept (known as Wu-Wei) implies that there is an inherent flow, a certain natural order to everything. You just have to let it course

through. Recklessly struggling towards a goal is not always the best way to attain it. Sometimes, you have to let it be, give it time. When you sow a seed, you diligently work to create the right conditions. Leave the ground soft, moist, fertilized and the seed will germinate. It will turn into a sapling, then a plant and a tree. The seed in itself requires little care, it is the environment that needs your attention. Similarly, the goodness in your life, peace in your heart and a smile on your face come naturally when you create the right conditions. And this is Tao in a nutshell as well — let natural things happens naturally. Interference is not the same as intervention. Know the difference.

If you do not expend your energy in creating answers (results) but conditions, wisdom and insight will come to you like a beautiful dream. Life will happen to you. It will arrive at your doorstep and wake you with a melodious morning song, soft as the winter sun. Tao says that most goals are not gained by struggle, but by patience. As the saying goes, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” Be patient, be simple and let life flow. This will give you the wisdom to know when to swim versus just float. You will know when not acting on something is the greatest action, in fact. This is the secret of a good life--knowing why, when, where and how to act versus not.


Om Swami 

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