Of actions and their outcomes

Oriental religions emphasize detachment from outcomes.

The Bhagavad Gita says, “You have the right only to perform your actions. You are not entitled to its fruits”. Lao Tzu, in the Tao Te Ching, writes “Tao in the world is like river flowing home to the sea”. He asks us to draw inspiration from a river finds the path of least resistance around obstacles and undesirable outcomes, while still flowing in a definite direction. What they both suggest is the idea that we do not control the outcomes of our actions, and trying to do so would lead to suffering.

In that case, who controls these outcomes? Are they already pre-ordained? And if they are, then what is the point of action? Does acceptance of a status-quo mean that we are powerless to change anything and that we ought to surrender to our fate?

While oriental religions are fatalistic, they do not advocate inaction. The Gita does give you the right to your action, and to be a river, one has to flow.

The outcomes of our actions are not entirely within our grasp. But our actions themselves, our inputs, most definitely are. These religions tell us that on shifting our focus from outcomes to inputs, we can transcend suffering.

Action without expectation is the path to happiness. Inaction without expectation is the same as being dead.

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