The Arithmetic of Action


Each of us is deeply conditioned to act. In the current urban culture, 'Work is Worship' has automatically translated itself into 'Action is Ultimate'. While this holds true at one level, it is binding at a deeper level. We should sit back and analyze this action that we call ultimate.


What's the origin of action?


Every single action binds us. Whether it's a duty that that we can't avoid or it is something that we voluntarily take up out of our enthusiasm. Let us take an elaborate example. Action begins with an intention. In this example, keep noticing how one small intention leads to a string of actions. Every small action gets you busy and robs you of your precious leisure time or time dedicated towards your life purpose.


The Decision Phase


Say, you decide to buy your teenage son a gift. You begin with wondering what gift he requires, a gift that will help him the most. You spend a day wondering whether you should give him what he requires or whether you should give than that which he is asking for. You discuss the matter with your spouse who too sleeps over it with his or her own set of dilemmas. After a day of debate, the two of you decide upon a gift, say a Casio and then spend some time thinking about whether to buy it online or buy from a shop. You decide to take the traditional route and set up a day and time when the two of you will go shopping for the gift in a certain shopping mall.


Your schedule doesn't permit you to go on the pre-decided day and this causes some friction between you and your spouse. You decide another date and time and this time around, you ensure that you end up in the shopping mall though it upsets your work commitments in some way.


The Action Phase


You like the casio in the very first shop that you visit but you can't get yourself to buy it unless you explore some other options in some other shops so that you are sure that you got the best deal - the best piece at the best price.


You spend an hour or so going through a variety of options and eventually you freeze something that both of you agree upon. You get it gift-wrapped, pay for it and are ready to leave.


The Action Loop


The shopkeeper takes your personal details so that he can send you the promotional offers from time to time. You do not mind it because it could get you some discounts the next time you wish to buy some required stuff. It's another thing that you might get tempted to buy an item or two simply because it's available at a tempting price. This fresh buy, whenever it happens, will get you busy once more, all over again.


You happily take the gift home to present it to your child, knowing how delighted he would be to receive the surprise gift. Just that you forget that the two of you have bought something that would be helpful for his growth - a Casio rather than what he badly wanted - say a video game.


The Action Boomerang


He is elated when he receives the gift but only until he unwraps the big box all the while fearing that it could be a Casio and not a board game. The moment he finds it to be a Casio, he gives you a frown and walks away. This gives you some heartburn particularly because buying his gift was a long-drawn process.




You and your spouse now try to coax him into how wonderful the Casio is and how great it is to learn music. You instill in him the possibility that he could become a big time musician some day. But in spite of a couple of days of your hard selling, he doesn't change his mind. All you are left is to go back to the shop and trade it for a board game, which is another exercise in itself.


You have also now established a trend of gifting for no particular reason. Assuming the child settles for your gift, or even if he or she doesn't, he is going to look forward to a gift every once in a while. You would have to go through the grind every single time.


Do you see how a thought as simple as buying a gift can get a person so busy? And this busyness can weigh on your spirit. Particularly when the actions have nothing to do with your life purpose or are of no great importance to your authentic self. Particularly when the list of things to do is already large enough. The point to see here is how one action leads to another and things get into a long loop.


The Arithmetic of Action


Have you observed that no matter what you do, work keeps adding up? Simple arithmetic suggests that the more you do, the less will be left on the plate for you yet to do. But it doesn't work that way. The arithmetic of action is different. The more you do, the more will be created for you to do. Paradoxical but true.


This is the bondage that action begets. A wise man sees this dynamic deeply enough and refrains every once in a while from initiating fresh actions. One of the names of Krishna is anaarambhi meaning the one who doesn't start. How wise! Learn how not to initiate. That's the secret to an easy life.

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