Buddha’s Teachings - The Eightfold Path: 4. Right Action (Samma kammanta)
by Quinten de Haas
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my contribution to our theme of the month series.
My name is Quinten de Haas and I am the General Manager at Delight Yoga. I have been with Delight for over 5 years now, and I still consider myself to be an absolute beginner to the practice of yoga, awareness, and consciousness. You will not find me on the mat in the shala too often, I haven't considered doing a teacher training yet, and I haven't read all the big books cover to cover. But somehow it works - apparently, the team complements my limited knowledge about the content, and I complement the team with my organisational and business background.
This also means that in this month’s theme, you won’t find as many Sanskrit words, inspiring quotes from the big masters, and references to the teachings compared to other months. Instead, I will share my personal interpretation of this month's theme in relation to my day-to-day life at Delight, I hope this angle will somehow be valuable for you too. Let's dive in.
‘Right action’ according to Buddha
I started my investigation into what the Buddha meant by 'Right Action' and found this explanation:
Right Action refers to observing these precepts:
- Not killing
- Not stealing
- Not misusing sex
- Not lying
- Not abusing intoxicants
When I first read these precepts, I felt that these were quite self-explanatory. I would almost take these for granted living in a part of the world and being part of a community where I don't have to worry about these things. But on second thought, I guess we still do not live in a world where we can take these guidelines for granted.
I am not under the illusion that I can rid the world of people that break these precepts by writing a blog post for our website. However, I can reflect on this aspect of the Buddha’s path from my own perspective, and share my own beliefs and lessons on ‘Right Action’ based on things I do have some control over: how I pursue Right Action in my daily life.
Making conscious decisions before springing into action
I believe the key to ‘right action’ lies in the process that happens before the action is actually taken. Taking the time to make a conscious and well-thought-out decision about whether to take action, as well as how to execute that action, will define the quality of the subsequent action. This is especially important when faced with complex issues or tricky dilemmas. In these situations, it is never a good idea to immediately spring into action without being completely informed and thinking through the possible consequences (except for when you are about to be hit by a car, then please jump away without overthinking that decision).
In recent months, the Delight Yoga team has faced many Corona-related dilemmas that have required us to take precisely the right action to ensure the safety and sustainability of our students, teachers, hosts, office team, and the Delight organism itself. Throughout these challenges, I believe that one thing served us well: our team of experienced practitioners is quite used to zooming out and seeing things for what they are, and they possess the ability to make decisions with clear heads instead of thinking with stressed-out minds. This made my job way easier, and gave me the confidence we would get through this crisis.
Our decision making process during the past few months looked something like this: we would get together to discuss the challenge at hand, explore different scenarios together, come to a preliminary decision, but then sleep on it for a night (or two) before making a final decision - and before springing into action. This approach has allowed us to choose the right solutions, without initial emotions and stress clouding our minds.
Right Action is much easier to realise when we slow down and take the time to make conscious decisions about whether (and how) to take action.
How conscious decision making leads to compassionate action
Of course, the example I used is quite practical and not really on the same level as the Buddha's explanation. Buddha talks more about the moral consequences of taking action: taking action out of compassion and taking action without selfishness.
But I do believe the two work hand in hand: if we take a moment to stop and reflect on how the consequences of our actions might affect others, I am sure most people will choose the most compassionate action that will do right instead of harm.
The importance of taking your time
One important lesson I have learned that I would like to share in this article: if I do not feel comfortable with making a decision, I put the decision to the side and trust the answer will come at the moment I least expect it to come. Under the shower, when taking a walk, or when playing with my daughter. Apparently, sometimes our minds also need to digest everything before we can be ready to make the right decision.
Now you have decided what to do, how can you execute the right action?
Once you have decided to spring into action, there is one thing that greatly improves the execution of that action: focus. If you choose to do less, 9 times out of 10, you will do it better. This is valid for practical work-related tasks, but also applies to spending quality time with your loved ones and the global moral dilemmas we are facing. Choose one task to direct your attention to, and do not move on to the next thing until you have completed what you set out to do in a satisfactory manner.
I believe that if we take the time to deliberately choose the best course of action that will lead to the Right Action, and subsequently execute that action with focus, care, and attention, we can weather every storm that comes our way and make sure that everyone involved will come out just fine.
I sincerely hope that reading this article was worth your valuable time. And if you have any comments/questions/objections to what I wrote, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy your day.
General Manager What brought you to Delight? “I never actually thought I would ever be working for a yoga studio, but somehow now I’m here and I’m enjoying myself very much. I started working with the Delight family when Delight Agency still existed, we assisted other companies in developing strategies and identities.