by Lowell Bennion
from an article which explores the good to be found
in other religions around the world
I believe that this value needs to be balanced by the insights of our own theology, which has no ascetic tradition. There is no reason for us not to enjoy the daily pleasures and comforts of life as long as they are not the things that matter most and as long as we receive them, with gratitude, as gifts from a loving Father, not as our prey, for the possession of which we fight our brothers and sisters.
The Bhagavad-Gita expresses the primacy of the inner life by stating that we should abandon attachment to the fruit of our actions but should get our satisfaction out of the action itself.
We should act with no thought of personal reward, neither now or hereafter, but solely because we believe in the rightness or worthiness of the action in itself. Another way of saying it is in the hymn, "Do what is right, let the consequence follow." Our satisfaction should lie wholly in doing, in acting from the integrity of souls. To act in the hope of praise from others is to put ourselves at their mercy.
A particular temptation, I feel, for Latter-day Saints stems from our strong sense of connection and community. We want, at the very least, to be understood by our fellow believers and hope to be approved of. From babyhood we are taught to do things - and usually they are very good things - because we "should." However, listening always to voices from outside ourselves can lead only to confusion.
Until we can hear the voice of our own conscience, with its iron imperative, we cannot act with integrity. "Words don't convey meanings," President David O. McKay told me in a private conversation during the 1950s when I was a young Institute teacher. "They call them forth."
I understand better now than I did then that I must speak and act out of the context of my experience; others must hear me and see me in the context of their own. It is quite impossible for them to fully understand my thinking or action - and it is equally impossible for me to understand theirs.
When I act out of concern for the "fruits" of my action, I risk serving two masters, my own conscience and the reactions of those around me.
A basketball player is less effective when he or she has one ear cocked for applause from the grandstand. A speaker loses concentration on the text when he or she worries about how the speech is going over.
When I act out of concern for the rightness of my action, I will keep my integrity. I am not distracted. I act with singleness of purpose, with my whole being in unison. And I have found that I am more effective.
Giving full thought to action, combined with an emphasis on the spiritual qualities of life, frees us from the narrowness and frustrations of a life centered on achieving personal satisfactions.
The intense Hindu focus on spirituality reinforces Jesus' statement: "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it" (Luke 17:33).
True, obedience to law does bring rewards. Many Latter-day Saints, however, obey in order to gain the blessings. But if I love my neighbor to gain the celestial kingdom, my motive may distract from my love of my neighbor.
I feel that this Hindu saying, "To action alone hast thou a right, not to its fruits," stands as a judgment of such motivation. We should live our religion because it is good and true-life at its best.
The motivation of rewards or blessings, honorable though it may be, still puts us in the position of serving two masters: the principle of truth and the reward. It is not an ill thing to be reminded of the need for integrity.
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