Calmly Active

Chapter III, Verse 4

Sri Nerode’s Translation:


(Yet these are one: ) Man winneth not freedom by shunning action. Nor shall he ever rise to perfection by mere renunciation.


Helpful Translation:

Action and contemplation are not mutually exclusive. Both are limited without the other. Human life requires action and human progress requires contemplation.



All striving meditation devotees are prisoners of the blind intellect that equates action with desire-based movement and work. The blind intellect rationalizes that the way to overcome desire-based action is to simply remain as still as possible. “Isn’t meditation stillness?” The intellect asks. Physical stillness is an indication of progress, however meaningful stillness is the product of inner work not the result of tying oneself into one position for hours on end while the mind races. Healthy discipline of the body is good. However, it is better to correct one’s thoughts, then the body must follow.

A wise man is one who has found stillness (single-pointed concentration) within action (intention and outcome). Another perspective on action that does not result in attachment to the outcome is viewed from the vantage point of principles.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 from the Old Testament of the Bible deserves contemplation in conjunction with this verse. It states, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” The principles of contemplative action are the same even when the specific results appear different on the surface. Perhaps your role is to lead a nation to spiritual heights, or perhaps your role is to lead your family to extended periods of grace, or perhaps your role is to find the inner sanctum that alone destroys sorrow and pain and to share that with nature. Regardless of the outcome (nation leading, successful family, the life of a hermit), the principles behind each of these actions is the same. One of the related principles in this example is to project strength from within as opposed to seeking it from others.

While a common person lives life carelessly, if one strives to spiritually progress he must work on combining thought, intention and action into a single movement.

Returning to the exercise and training analogy of the previous commentary, exercise is more effective when performed with thoughtful concentration and attention. Being present in each moment allows that time to fulfill its purpose in personal development. Anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, even elation over accomplishments, nearly all emotions are based in internal restlessness are all indications that that one is fighting against their highest purpose in life.

The key to an expansive life, one that increases personal understanding, is to take action with devoted attention.

Easter Eggs:

Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:

The philosopher’s stone is hidden in this verse. The key to transmutation is revealed with intuitive study. In essence, the key is perfect alignment of energy and intention which produces the best outcome.

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Ancient History

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