Substituting One Cruelty For Another

Anthony de Mello

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Many people swing into action only to make things worse. They're not coming from love, they're coming from negative feelings. They're coming from guilt, anger, hate; from a sense of injustice or whatever. You've got to make sure of your "being" before you swing into action. You have to make sure of who you are before you act.

Unfortunately, when sleeping people swing into action, they simply substitute one cruelty for another, one injustice for another. And so it goes. Meister Eckhart says, "It is not by your actions that you will be [awakened] but by your being. It is not by what you do, but by what you are that you will be judged". What good is it to you to feed the hungry, give the thirsty to drink, or visit prisoners in jail? Remember that sentence from Paul: "If I give my body to be burned and all my goods to feed the poor and have not love ..." It's not your actions, it's your being that counts. Then you might swing into action. You might or might not. You can't decide that until you're awake.

Unfortunately, all the emphasis is concentrated on changing the world and very little emphasis is given to waking up. When you wake up, you will know what to do or what not to do. Some mystics are very strange, you know. Like Jesus, who said something like "I wasn't sent to those people; I limit myself to what I am supposed to do right now. Later, maybe". Some mystics go silent. Mysteriously, some of them sing songs. Some of them are into service. We're never sure. They're a law unto themselves; they know exactly what is to be done. "Plunge into the heat of battle and keep your heart at the lotus feet of the Lord", as I said to you earlier.

Imagine that you're unwell and in a foul mood, and they're taking you through some lovely countryside. The landscape is beautiful but you're not in the mood to see anything. A few days later you pass the same place and you say, "Good heavens, where was I that I didn't notice all of this"? Everything becomes beautiful when you change. Or you look at the trees and the mountains through windows that are wet with rain from a storm, and everything looks blurred and shapeless. You want to go right out there and change those trees, change those mountains. Wait a minute, let's examine your window. When the storm ceases and the rain stops, and you look out the window, you say, "Well, how different everything looks". We see people and things not as they are, but as we are. That is why when two people look at something or someone, you get two different reactions. We see things and people not as they are, but as we are.

Put this program into action, a thousand times: (a) identify the negative feelings in you; (b) understand that they are in you, not in the world, not in external reality; (c) do not see them as an essential part of "I"; these things come and go; (d) understand that when you change, everything changes.

Anthony De Mello was a Jesuit priest. Excerpt above from his book 'Awareness'.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that the being in the doing shapes our experience? Can you share a personal story of a time you became aware of your being in the doing? What helps you avoid the trap of substituting one cruelty for another?

Add Your Reflection:

6 Previous Reflections:

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    On Oct 7, 2020 Shyam Gupta wrote:
    Being before doing . How can we start an activity after ensuring the inclusion of love component in the activity. Many times we begin some service activity with good intention and if it is for any other reason apart from love , it is bound to create an unease or negative impression on the recipient
    Like it is said , we may feed the hungry or give water to the poor but if not done with love or in the spirit of wishing whole hearted well being of other, then it is of no use.
    How to ensure that whatever we do comes out of a space of love.
    How can we internalize love, be awakened enough that whatever we do comes out of space of love.

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    On Oct 6, 2020 klaus wrote:
    It is true that everything you look at can change when you look at it in another mood a second time again.
    However it is NOT TRUE that things have changed.
    Deeds, acts, cruelty committed by humans does not disappearby looking at it a second time and with another mood and no one can change what has happened.
    It does not help that YOU are 'awake', in a good mood, with love and full of good intentions ...

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    On Oct 3, 2020 David Doane wrote:
    Anthony de Mello is too absolute for me. No one has got to do anything. It does usually help to know who you are, such as to know what your purpose in taking action is. The hungry may benefit more from food given in love, but they also benefit from food given by someone who is angry or condescending or trying to get praise, and the person giving it may benefit also. Both your action and your being count and shape your experience. Regarding the statement that a person can't decide until awake -- people do decide when not awake. When awake, a personmay or may not know what to do. Awake, a person can act out of his or her experience, heart, and best judgment as to what is best in a situation. I think Jesus' statement is about his commitment to action that he judged to be right in the moment, and he wasn't trying to produce a particular outcome in the future. No doubt that we see through our experience. We see things not as they are but as we are. When you change, everything ch... [View Full Comment] Anthony de Mello is too absolute for me. No one has got to do anything. It does usually help to know who you are, such as to know what your purpose in taking action is. The hungry may benefit more from food given in love, but they also benefit from food given by someone who is angry or condescending or trying to get praise, and the person giving it may benefit also. Both your action and your being count and shape your experience. Regarding the statement that a person can't decide until awake -- people do decide when not awake. When awake, a personmay or may not know what to do. Awake, a person can act out of his or her experience, heart, and best judgment as to what is best in a situation. I think Jesus' statement is about his commitment to action that he judged to be right in the moment, and he wasn't trying to produce a particular outcome in the future. No doubt that we see through our experience. We see things not as they are but as we are. When you change, everything changes. It was a long time ago that I began to become aware of being in the doing -- it happened as I became more aware of my being -- being is typically more difficult to know than doing. What helps me avoid the substitution trap is awareness. Before action, especially when upset, I've learned tooften ask myself what it is that I want to accomplish by my action, and if my intent is cruel, I'm pleased when I restrain myself.[Hide Full Comment]

    2 replies: Siddharth, Shyam | Post Your Reply
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    On Oct 2, 2020 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    When my vision is clouded what I look out will be clouded and if swing into actionwith the clouded vision, I will make things worse. All wisdom traditions ask us to awake from the sleep of ignorance, to see the Light Within and see the world and act with the light of love and clarity. The Light Within is the Light of Being, the Light of Love. When my doing emerges form the Inner Light, it heals the wounds. In my daily life I remember the wise words ofMeisterEchart: "It is not by your actions thatyou will be [awakened] but by your being. It is not by what you do but by what you are that you will be judged." I remember and applythe wise saying in my daily lifethat the being in the doing shapes our experience. I apply this wise saying in all areas of my life-personal and interpersonal. There are times when I act unmindfully which disrupts the clear and loving flow of my energy. With practice I quickly wake upand get connected with the Light of Being. As a teacher and as acounse... [View Full Comment] When my vision is clouded what I look out will be clouded and if swing into actionwith the clouded vision, I will make things worse. All wisdom traditions ask us to awake from the sleep of ignorance, to see the Light Within and see the world and act with the light of love and clarity. The Light Within is the Light of Being, the Light of Love. When my doing emerges form the Inner Light, it heals the wounds. In my daily life I remember the wise words ofMeisterEchart: "It is not by your actions thatyou will be [awakened] but by your being. It is not by what you do but by what you are that you will be judged."

    I remember and applythe wise saying in my daily lifethat the being in the doing shapes our experience. I apply this wise saying in all areas of my life-personal and interpersonal. There are times when I act unmindfully which disrupts the clear and loving flow of my energy. With practice I quickly wake upand get connected with the Light of Being. As a teacher and as acounselor as well as a family member I get plenty of opportunities of becoming aware of my being in the doing. And if and when I goof I quickly correct my path.

    Remaining awake and aware of my bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions helps me avoid the trap of substituting one unkind act for another. Awarenesskeeps the Light Within shining for making wise choices.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave'



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