Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Doer Of Good Deeds

In the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” the Tin Man laments that he has no heart.  Just a hollow, empty echo results when one taps on his metal chest.  To compensate for that and grant him his wish for a heart, the Wizard gives him a heart-shaped watch as a Testimonial recognition to his being a “Doer of Good Deeds.”  Good deeds are what a good, warm heart does.

This is a message echoed fully in most all religions.  Be generous to the poor.  Support the widows and the children.  Assist the labored with a relieving of their heavy load.  Give to charities.

The payoff for all these good works of the heart comes in the next life, or the afterlife.  In Islam and Christian teachings, we are given the image of the heavenly ledger where our actions – our good and bad deeds – are recorded through our lifetime.  If the “net balance” of good deeds outnumbers the bad, then the door of heaven will be opened for us.  Similarly, for the Buddhist, good deeds accumulate “merit,” resulting in good karma from this life transferred to our next rebirth into a higher, more realized form.

But is the doing of good deeds enough to warrant such future rewards?  I think not.  It is very easy to put a check to a favorite charity in the mail.  To volunteer at the hospital, AIDS clinic, or museum for a day and then return to the protective safety of one’s home.  To be a tutor or mentor to a schoolchild, particularly for an orphan.  Or to set aside your own personal ambitions in order to give a greater opportunity to your child.

All of these actions, and similar others, certainly constitute being “good deeds.”  But if they are done, or given, without the packaging gift of the heart, then they are a hollow gift.  As hollow as the chest of the Tin Man.

Good deeds given from the heart means that we are truly connected to the recipient of our action.  They are not a nameless, faceless being to us.  Even if we do not know them personally, we create a representative vision of them as we drop the dollar bills into the Christmas red bucket of the Salvation Army.  We give of ourselves without a need, or even a desire, for acknowledgment or recognition.  No need to sign our name over the door of the new building or the memorial plaque.  As the Taoist says, “do your work quietly, and then step back again.”

We do our good deeds with no expectation or demand for an equal return.  There are no IOUs in truly good deeds, no reciprocal contracts.  As Jesus explained to us, a large gift made with no sacrifice means less than a small gift of great sacrifice.  Good deeds are a one-way gift, with no chains of obligation attached.  The gift of “freedom” is always embedded in a good work.  Yet we also know fully in our hearts that “we reap what we sow.”  That “what we send out comes back to us many-fold.”

Good deeds are not deposits made into our heavenly salvation accounts.  They are not design fees for shaping our rebirth.  True good deeds are simply expressions of what is already perfect in our own heart – the very Buddha-nature that already resides in each of us, waiting to be realized.  They are simply the ways that we find to express our best feelings toward one another, towards all living things, without keeping score.

Good deeds are the way we emulate God, through realizing that piece of God that is already in us.  In our generosity, truly good deeds are the gift of our expression that we give to ourselves.  So that when we tap on our chest, we do not hear the empty echo of the Tin Man.  Rather, we hear the warm gong of God’s voice speaking within us.  To us.


Anonymous said...

OH, another wonderful message and right on the spiritual money, so to speak. My grandmother used to say, "If you do something, do it with a good heart or not at all." She understood. And I learned this valuable lesson at a young age, more intuitively than rationally -- but then, spiritual lessons ARE intuitive, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

Your recent blogpost offers some spot-on wisdom. I hesitate to characterize Christianity in its essence as “ledger-keeping” (good deeds and bad) . . . though in reality, many within Christianity act as if that were so. Thanks for your sharing.

Anonymous said...

"Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with [a]signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is [b]in your midst"

From the New American Standard Edition-others are similar.

If not now-will it be ever??